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Original Research

Depression in the US Population During the Time Periods Surrounding the Great Recession

Kaushal Mehta, MD, MPH; Holly Kramer, MD, MPH; Ramon Durazo-Arvizu, PhD; Guichan Cao, MS; Liping Tong, PhD; and Murali Rao, MD

Published: April 22, 2015

Article Abstract

Objective: To determine whether the time periods surrounding the 2008 US economic downturn were accompanied by an increase in prevalence of depression in the US adult population.

Method: We used data from the 24,182 adults aged ≥ 18 years who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey during 2005-2012. A cross-sectional analysis was performed at each time period to determine prevalence of major and other depression as assessed by standardized questionnaires based on 9 criteria for major depressive episodes defined by DSM-IV.

Results: The demographic characteristics of the US population were similar across time periods except for the percentage of adults living in poverty, which increased from 26.43% during 2005-2006 to 33.46% during 2011-2012. The prevalence of major depression increased from 2.33% (95% CI, 1.64%-3.01%) during 2005-2006 to 3.49% (95% CI, 2.84%-4.03%) in 2009-2010 to 3.79% (95% CI, 3.01%-4.57%) in 2011-2012. Prevalence of other depression increased from 4.10% (95% CI, 3.37%-4.88%) in 2005-2006 to 4.79% (95% CI, 4.10%-5.44%) in the 2009-2010 period but then declined to 3.68% (95% CI, 2.84%-4.48%) in the 2011-2012 time period (P = .4). After adjustment for the distribution of age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, insurance status, and poverty status in the US adult noninstitutionalized population, each 2-year period after the 2005-2006 time period was associated with a 0.4% increase in major depression prevalence (P < .001). No significant differences in other depression prevalence were noted by time period (P = .6).

Conclusions: The time periods surrounding the recent economic recession were accompanied by a significant and sustained increase in major depression prevalence in the US population. It is plausible that the recession, given its strong, persistent, and negative effects on employment, job and housing security, and stock investments, contributed to the sustained increase in prevalence of major depression in the US population, but other factors associated with the recession time period could have played a role. The impact of the economic downturn on depression prevalence should be considered when formulating future policies and programs to promote and maintain the health of the US population.

Volume: 76

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