If you’ve been feeling down and out more than usual, cheer up, you are not alone.
A new report compiled by insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) says major depression diagnoses surged in the United States from 2013 through 2016, especially among adolescents and millennials.
And the study, which was based on medical claims filed to Blue Cross Blue Shield by 41 million customers, also links major depression to health issues such as other chronic conditions and substance abuse.
According to the report:
Major depression has a diagnosis rate of 4.4 percent for BCBS members. Diagnosis rates rose by 33 percent from 2013 through 2016 and climbed fastest among adolescents (up 63 percent) and millennials (up 47 percent).
Diagnosis rates vary by as much at 300 percent by state from a high of 6.4 percent in Rhode Island to lows of 2.1 in Hawaii and 3.2 percent in Nevada in 2016.
By city, diagnosis rates range more than 400 percent from a high of 6.8 percent in Topeka, Kansas, to lows of 1.5 percent in Laredo, Texas, and 2 percent in McAllen/Edinburg/Mission, Texas.
Women are diagnosed with major depression at double the rate of men (6 percent and 3 percent, respectively).
Those diagnosed with major depression are nearly 30 percent less healthy on average than those not diagnosed with major depression.
Chronic conditions are strongly linked to major depression, as 85 percent of people who are diagnosed with major depression also have one or more serious chronic health conditions. Nearly 30 percent have four or more other health conditions.
Those diagnosed with major depression use health care services more than those without a depression diagnosis. This results in two times the health care spending (about $10,673 compared to $4,283).
Depression is the second most impactful condition on overall health for commercially insured Americans, behind only high blood pressure.
“Major depression diagnoses are growing quickly, especially for adolescents and millennials,” said Trent Haywood, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s senior vice president and chief medical officer.
“The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come. Further education and research is needed to identify methods for both physicians and patients to effectively treat major depression and begin a path to recovery and better overall health.”
What are the causes of the increased depression? It appears the use of social media and video games could be a factor.
“In preliminary literature, high users of social media have been linked with higher rates of social isolation than low users. It is important to further explore this relationship,” Haywood noted.
And Dr. Karyn Horowitz, a psychiatrist affiliated with Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island, said: “It is possible that the increased rates of depression in adolescents are related to a combination of increased electronics use and sleep disruptions in already vulnerable individuals.
“Increased use of electronics, video games more commonly in boys and social media/texting more commonly in girls, can lead to increased conflict both within the home and with peers.”
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