Is Stigma Beginning To Lift Around Depression?

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Is Stigma Beginning To Lift Around Depression?

By Beth Leipholtz 05/16/18

A new report revealed that depression diagnoses have increased by 33% over a three-year period which, according to experts, is good news.

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A growing number of people in the country are being diagnosed with depression, according to new statistics.

However, according to Quartz, this likely means more people are seeking treatment for depression, not that more people are depressed. 

A new report from BlueCross BlueShield, released May 10, states that of the 41 million people it insures, diagnoses of depression increased 33% between 2013 and 2016. 

The report found that although women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men, both genders saw the same 33% increase.

However, when it came to age there were discrepancies, with a rise in depression diagnoses in young adults in particular. For those aged 12-17, there was a 63% increase in the three years, and for those aged 18-34, there was a 47% increase. 

According to Quartz, it’s not just BlueCross BlueShield that has reported these findings. A study from 2017, involving more than 607,500 adults, determined that from 2005 to 2015, reported depression in the U.S. increased.

Additional research done in 2016 which focused on adolescents also found a steep increase around the same time period. Depression rates have been climbing in the country since the late-1930s, Quartz noted. 

Some experts, such as Steve Hyman, director of the Stanley Center for psychiatric research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, say these statistics are a good thing.

Hyman told Quartz he does not believe there is an increase in cases of depression, but rather an increase in the “rate at which symptoms of the mental illness are recognized.”

There are a number of reasons that depression is becoming more recognized, Hyman tells Quartz. One is that in 2016, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force made the recommendation that all children over the age of 12 be screened for depression, even if they did not consider themselves depressed. 

Another is that the stigma around depression is being broken down as some major celebrities have begun speaking out about their own struggles. “More celebrities have gone public about mental health issues, and my impression is that there is more news coverage,” Hyman told Quartz.

Hyman also states that while statistics show the increase, there are some aspects of depression that remain the same as in the past. “Diagnostics have certainly not improved, and treatment remains the same as it has been for many years,” he said.

One aspect of depression that should be given more attention, according to Quartz, is how to prevent it in the first place. 

“Perhaps, if the rate of depression diagnoses keeps growing, we will start to look into ways to prevent the illness, rather than merely treat it,” the article concludes. 

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