Examining Depression Among Young Adults

Posted on June 3rd, 2012

Depression affects between three and four percent of the population in the United States. It carries with it challenges that can affect everything from academic and professional achievement to everyday activities such as leaving the house to buy groceries.

In order to provide adequate treatment for those suffering from depression, it is important to have a clear understanding of who is affected with the disorder. A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides insight into depression among young adults between the ages of 18 and 22.

The report, compiled for the years between 2008 and 2010, compares depression among young adults in college and young adults not enrolled in a post-secondary program. Overall, there were 8.4 percent of full-time college students and 8.2 percent of young adults not in college who reported having had a major depressive episode (MDE) during the last 12 months.

While the reported instances of MDE were similar between the two groups, those not enrolled in college were significantly more likely to indicate that the mood associated with their MDE resulted in severe impairment when it came to activities and social contacts. In addition, the young adults not enrolled in college said that they experienced at least 60 days during the last 12 months in which they were impaired from completing normal activities.

For instance, among full-time college students, 8.2 percent said that they were challenged to maintain close relationships, while 13 percent of non-college students reported the same challenge.

The greater severity of depressive symptoms reported among young adults who were not enrolled in college did not translate to intensified services. Instead, the two groups reported similar levels of receiving mental health treatment. In addition, the two groups were similar in their reports of receiving prescription medication to treat their MDE.

For young adults enrolled in college and young adults not in a post-secondary program, females were more likely to report an MDE within the last 12 months. The report did not show that there was a discrepancy noted with respect to age within the ages examined.

There were some differences noted along racial/ethnic lines. For instance, among college students, reports of an MDE were lowest among Asians, at 6.3 percent. Among those who reported being of two or more races, the rate of depression was 17.6 percent.

The authors note that while there has been a general concern with the mental health status of those attending college, the results of this report indicate that there may be a greater need among those not attending post-secondary education.

The reason behind the more severe symptoms may be due to stress, possibly related to employment or family responsibilities. In addition, those attending college may generally have more access to health insurance.

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