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Depression is a condition that reportedly affects one in ten Americans at one point or another, and the incidence of depression is higher in some states than others. Certain ethnicities also report higher depression rates than non-Hispanic whites. Depression varies in severity and by demographic indicators, and it is rapidly becoming a significant health concern worldwide.

Understanding the statistics behind depression may help you become aware of your risks.

Situational vs. Severe Recurring Depression

While a 10% prevalence of depression among U.S. citizens may seem fairly high, it is important to note that this figure encompasses all types of depression.

Many depression sufferers have occasional bouts of depression over a lifetime, usually brought on by a specific situation or major life event. Some will experience it only after major life events such as divorce, sudden unemployment, health decline, or death of a loved one.

Feeling sad is not the same as depression, however, and it should be noted that the process of grieving is an important part of recovering from a major life event. Individuals who find the grieving process debilitating for more than a few weeks may be suffering from depression, however, in which case treatment (often temporary) may be necessary.

Severe recurring depression is a form of depression that often lasts months or even years. This type of depression can severely impact a person’s ability to work and maintain healthy relationships. Severe recurring depression often begins in adolescence or young adulthood and can only be effectively managed with long-term, regular treatment. Severe recurring depression is estimated to affect less than 5% of the U.S. population.

Depression by State

There is no causal link between state of residence and depression diagnosis, but rates of diagnosed, treated, and untreated depression vary throughout the United States.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression is more prevalent in the South, with the highest percentages of adults meeting the criteria for current depression in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, and Delaware.
  • Puerto Rico also has an elevated rate of current depression.
  • The Southeast also has higher rates of obesity, heart disease, stroke, and sleep disorders, which researchers suggest may explain some of the South’s elevated rates of depression.
  • Lack of education and medical insurance could also affect the unequal rates of diagnosed depression among states, as both lead to higher risks of depression and are matters of concern in many of the states with the highest rates of depression.

Lifestyle Correlations with Depression

Although there are many causes of depression, some of which may be genetic, decades of research on mental health conditions have revealed correlations between certain lifestyle factors and increased depression rates.

  • Individuals with less than a high school education are more likely to suffer from depression than those with a high school diploma or more advanced degree.
  • Involuntary unemployment—regardless of its cause—is also elevated among those reporting depression. Since depression is a leading cause of disability in the U.S., it may lead to increased unemployment and decreased quality of life.
  • Those who have gone through a divorce have a higher risk of depression. Statistics indicate that men are more likely than women to suffer depression after a divorce.

Sex, Age, and Ethnicity in Depression

Depression rates vary by gender, age, and ethnicity. In general, women are at higher risk of depression than men, ethnic minorities are at greater risk of depression than non-Hispanic whites, and adults aged 45-64 are more likely than any other age group to have a diagnosis of depression.

  • Women are twice as likely to have depression, and symptoms of depression, as men of the same age.
  • 12% of all women in the United States will experience symptoms of clinical depression at some point in their lives.
  • Approximately one in ten women experience symptoms of depression in the weeks after having a baby.  
  • The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found that the rate of diagnosed major depression increased with age from 2.8% for adults 18-24 to a peak of 4.6% for adults 45-64 years.
  • 4% of adolescents will develop significant symptoms of serious depression each year in the United States. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among children and young adults aged 10 to 24.
  • For every 33 children in school, one child will have clinical depression.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and Non-Hispanic others had rates of diagnosis of 4.0%, 4.0%, and 4.3%, respectively, and were more likely to report depressive symptoms than non-Hispanics whites (3.1%).
  • African-American and Hispanic populations have less access to adequate treatment for depression, such as psychotherapy and anti-depressant medication.
  • African-American males are the least likely to obtain help for symptoms of depression, with over 90% not seeking any care.
  • About 50% of all adults experiencing symptoms of depression will not talk to a doctor or seek help for depression. 


The prevalence of diagnosed depression varies throughout the United States. Although the number of new cases changes every year and many people are successfully treated for their depression symptoms, rates of diagnosed depression continue to increase.

  • 6.6% of the U.S. adult population will experience major depression within a 12-month period.
  • Rates of diagnosis of depression vary based on states. In 2006-2008, North Dakota had the lowest rate (4.8%) while Mississippi had the highest rate (14.8%), according to Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.
  • Bipolar disorder, which involves alternating periods of depression and mania, affects about 6 million people in the United States, or about 3% of the total adult population.
  • Over 80% of people with symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any specific treatment for their depression.
  • According to a study done at Harvard, the number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20% per year.

Medical Costs and Care

Individuals suffering from depression (diagnosed or otherwise) consume considerably more health services than similar individuals without depression symptoms. Depression is a growing concern for healthcare costs and insurance, particularly as rates of diagnosed depression steadily increase.

  • The World Health Association reports that 60-80% of all depression cases can be effectively treated with brief, structured forms of psychotherapy and antidepressant medications.
  • In a study of 14,903 individuals on Medicare in the United States, 2,108 had depression and 1,081 were not officially diagnosed despite reporting clinical symptoms of depression or taking antidepressant medication. Most of the patients also suffered from serious comorbid conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.  
  • In the same study of health care costs, those currently diagnosed with depression had healthcare costs of approximately $22,960 in a one-year period. Those without any signs of depression had healthcare costs approximately half that of those with a diagnosis ($11,956). Those reporting depression symptoms but no depression diagnosis had average healthcare costs of $14,365.

Worldwide Facts

Although many countries have too little data available to accurately calculate rates of depression diagnoses and symptoms, several international studies and organizations have begun to conduct research on depression and its effects worldwide.

  • An estimated 121 million people worldwide are currently living with some form of depression. Of these individuals, fewer than 25% have access to adequate treatment.
  • The World Health Organization considers depression the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, and expects it to become the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020.
  • In the United Kingdom, an estimated one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in a given year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most commonly diagnosed. Depression alone impacts one in five elderly people in the UK.
  • Worldwide, women are about twice as likely to experience depression as men.
  • High-income countries tend to have higher rates of depression than lower income countries.
  • Countries with the highest lifetime prevalence of Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) are France, the Netherlands, the United States (each with over 30% of the population ever experiencing an MDE), and India (36%). High-income countries together average 28.1%, and low- and middle-income countries average 19.8% in prevalence of a lifetime MDE.