Depression is a serious medical illness affecting more than 16 million American adults every year, 6.7% of all U.S. adults 1. Often a debilitating disorder, depression results in a persistent state of sadness or loss of interest or pleasure which interferes with an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood, and physical health. Learn more about depression symptoms.
In 2010, the economic burden of depression was estimated at $210 billion in the US2 and depression was the second leading cause of disability, accounting for almost 20% of all years of life lost to disability and premature death.3
Depression can be a lethal disease. In fact, each year in the US, over 44,000 people die by suicide, 60% of whom suffer from depression.4, 5 Overall, women are almost twice as likely as men to suffer from depression; however, some experts feel that depression in men is under-reported.6 Depression has no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries. About two-thirds of those who experience an episode of depression will have at least one other episode in their lives.
While the exact cause of depression is not known, the leading scientific theory is that depression is caused by decreased activity in the neural networks of the brain that regulate emotion and motivation. Increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain has been found to reactivate these neural networks, or create new networks. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals between brain cells. Depression is most often treated with antidepressant medications. It is believed that antidepressant medications work by increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters.
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.
- Greenberg PE, et al. The Economic Burden of Adults With Major Depressive Disorder in the United States (2005 and 2010). J Clin Psychiatry. 2015; 76(2):155-162.
- US Burden of Disease Collaborators. The state of US health, 1990-2010: burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. JAMA, 310(6): 591-608, 2013.
- Arias E, Heron M, Xu JQ. United States life tables, 2012. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 8. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016.
- Courtet, P. and Lopez-Castroman, J. (2017), Antidepressants and suicide risk in depression. World Psychiatry, 16: 317-318. doi:10.1002/wps.20460
- Martin LA, Neighbors HW, Griffith DM. The Experience of Symptoms of Depression in Men vs Women Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(10):1100-1106. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1985