Teen Depression Rates Growing

In the November 2016 journal Pediatrics, research from Johns Hopkins shows that the rate of adolescents reporting clinical depression grew by 37% over the decade ending in 2014, with one in six girls reporting an episode in the past year. This is a substantial increase. In addition, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that suicide rates have been increasing in recent years, particularly among adolescent girls and young women. Unfortunately, mental health treatment for adolescents with depression have not increased over the same time period which means that many youth are not receiving help.

The researchers are not sure what the root cause is for the rise in depression. They hypothesized that adolescent girls may be exposed to more risk factors for depression in recent years. For example, girls tend to use cell phones more frequently, opening them up to the potential for cyberbullying.

It’s important that parents look for possible signs of depression in their children. Your teen is not going to walk up and tell you that they are depressed. In fact, new research at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco suggests that teenagers rarely use the word “depressed” to describe negative emotions hanging over them. Teens tend to label themselves as “stressed,” or “down.” The words they are choosing make family and friends think they are experiencing ordinary teen anxiety, when in fact, it could be a signal of more serious, pre-depressive symptoms.

Common symptoms teens with depression exhibit are:

  • Increased anger and irritability toward others.
  • Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
  • Marked difficulty falling and staying asleep, as well as sleeping too much.


Teens in the study identified the following as sources of stress or depression:

  • school pressure related to homework,
  • expectations to succeed,
  • arguments with parents,
  • verbal and emotional abuse,
  • divorce or separation in the family,
  • neglect or abuse (mental, physical, or sexual),
  • moving, and
  • death of a family member or friend.


The researchers also found that the majority of teens who had symptoms of depression, but had not been treated for depression, had visited their primary healthcare providers for physical illnesses such as ulcers, migraines, stomach pains and fatigue. Likely the depression and/or stress is showing up as physical symptoms. When teens visit their primary care doctors, it is a great time for a doctor to address mental health concerns with teens.

Researchers felt that parents should be more aware that a “stressed” or “down” child could be suffering from depression and should be at least examined by the family doctor.

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