Americans are more depressed now than they have been in decades, even if they don’t know it, a new study finds.
Data from 6.9 million adults and adolescents from across the US found that Americans now report more psychosomatic symptoms of depression than similar studies in the 1980s (Twenge, 2014).
Dr. Jean Twenge, the study’s author, said:
“Previous studies found that more people have been treated for depression in recent years, but that could be due to more awareness and less stigma.
This study shows an increase in symptoms most people don’t even know are connected to depression, which suggests adolescents and adults really are suffering more.”
Symptoms of depression that many reported, but which people appeared not to know were signs of depression included:
- Poor appetite.
- Problems sleeping.
- Lack of concentration.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
Dr. Twenge continued:
“Despite all of these symptoms, people are not any more likely to say they are depressed when asked directly, again suggesting that the rise is not based on people being more willing to admit depression.”
The study found that compared to their counterparts in the 1980s, teens in the 2010s were 38% more likely to have memory problems and 74% more likely to have trouble sleeping.
Teens were also twice as likely to have seen a mental health professional about these issues.
Amongst college students, 50% said they were overwhelmed, while adults reported poor sleep, lack of appetite and feeling restless.
All of these are classic signs of depression.
Set against these findings were the fact that suicide rates amongst teen had decreased slightly.
This could be the result, Twenge speculates, of increases in the use of antidepressant medication.
While antidepressants may help some, they seem not have been beneficial for many problems associated with depression, which this research suggests are getting worse.
Image credit: Brandon Warren