National Survey Sharpens Picture of Major Depression Among U.S. Adults
Findings from the largest survey ever conducted on the co-occurrence of psychiatric disorders among adults in the United States paint a sharper than ever picture of major depressive disorder in specific subgroups of the population, and of its relationship to alcohol use disorders.
Schmalfeldt: Findings from the largest survey ever conducted on the co-occurrence of psychiatric disorders among adults in the United States paint a sharper than ever picture of major depressive disorder in specific subgroups of the population, and of its relationship to alcohol use disorders. New analysis of data from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions showed for the first time that being a middle aged American increases the likelihood of having a current major depressive disorder, or of having had an episode in one's lifetime. Doctor Deborah Hasin of Columbia University was lead author of the study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Hasin: The highest risk in terms of age was for people in the baby boomer age cohort. In previous surveys that were conducted earlier in the 1980s and early 1990s, it was always the very youngest adults who seemed to be at the highest risk even though they had had fewer years of lifetime to actually experience the disorder. And so what this study does is it clarifies what appeared to be going on. People weren't sure before if it was just that older people tended to forget and not report that they had had major depression and it was just the younger people who were reporting it. But this study suggests that the same cohort of people that were in their early adulthood in the 80s and early 90s, as they moved on through the decades, they're still reporting higher rates of depression than the other age groups — suggesting that there's something about the experience of these people in this age group that may be specifically increasing their risk.
Schmalfeldt: Being of Native American race also increased the risk, Dr. Hasin said.
Hasin: Because there was such a large subsample of Native Americans in the study — this is the first large epidemiologic survey to show that they are at increased risk so that was an important finding of the study as well.
Schmalfeldt: Dr. Hasin said the results of the survey are significant for treating and for planning treatment resources for people suffering from major depression and substance use disorders. She said it's important for people suffering with depression to realize they should get help when they need it.
Hasin: I think the thing to remember is that people, when they have this disorder, they should take it seriously and if it doesn't go away on its own after a short period of time, they should consider getting some help for it.
Schmalfeldt: You can read more about the survey online at www.niaaa.nih.gov. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Deborah Hasin