Cost Hampers Depression Treatment, Even For Insured

By Kelly Burch 06/07/19
Of the 9 million commercially insured people with depression, 2 million—or about 22%—are not getting treatment.
person getting depression treatment

The cost of getting healthcare keeps many people with depression from seeking treatment, even if they are commercially insured, according to a new survey published by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. 

The survey found that 9 million commercially insured Americans have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder (for comparison, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that more than 16 million Americans have major depression). Of the 9 million commercially insured people, 2 million, or about 22%, are not getting treatment. 

Cost is likely a barrier to treatment, the survey said. 

Fifty-six percent of Americans believe that there are not enough options for treating depression, the survey found. 

“It’s important for patients to be able to find the right balance of treatments that work best for them, whether that’s therapy, prescription antidepressants or a combination,” said Dr. Vincent G. Nelson, vice president of medical affairs at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Depression diagnoses have increased among younger people, rising 66% among teens and 47% among millennials. Young people were more likely to think that there are not enough options for treating depression. 

“As more Americans, especially millennials and adolescents, are diagnosed with major depression each year, it’s increasingly important that there’s continued research and resources allocated towards new ways to treat depression," Nelson said. "The more options there are, the greater the likelihood is that we can find the right course of treatment for each person suffering from major depression.”

Another survey released last week found similar increases in depression among millennials. Young people are especially at risk for depression because they are undergoing so many changes, said Ran Zilca, the chief data scientist at Happify Health, which administered that survey.

"Young adulthood is a transitional time when we're often just entering the workforce, figuring out who we are and what we want to do with our lives, which can be very challenging and, for some, can cause very negative psychological reactions while not having yet developed the skills to combat those feelings," Zilca said. "While this analysis doesn't tell us if the causes are internal or external to their employment, we know from prior Happify research that younger adults tend to be more stressed and worried about job-related matters than older workers.” 

Acacia Parks, chief scientist at Happify Health, said that having too many options can also put pressure on millennials. 

“They have access to so much information via the Internet—a universe where the possibilities are endless—which can be both exciting and overwhelming,” Parks said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.