Prevalence of Depression Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 2013–2016

February 13, 2018

Questions for Debra J. Brody, M.P.H., and Laura Pratt, Ph.D., Epidemiologists and Lead Authors of “Prevalence of Depression Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 2013–2016

Q: What made you decide to focus on the prevalence of depression for the subject of your new report?

DB/LP: Our intent in conducting this study was to provide up-to-date prevalence estimates for depression—a common and serious medical condition that can result in both emotional and physical problems. We focused on U.S. adults 20 and older to determine if there have been any changes in the proportion of adults with depression over the past 10 years. The estimates are based on responses to a series of depression symptom questions asked during the examination portion of the 2013-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative study.

Q: Was there a result in your study that you hadn’t expected and that really surprised you?

DB/LP: The finding that most surprised us was that among adults who are depressed, four out of five, or 80%, have at least some difficulty going to work, doing their regular activities at home, or getting along with people. What was perhaps most striking was to see that impairment due to depression affected both men and women equally—given that the prevalence of depression among men (5.5%) was almost half of what it is among women (10.4%).

Q:  What differences or similarities did you see among race and ethnic groups, and various demographics, in this analysis?

DB/LP:  We found one notable difference in depression among race and ethnic groups in the 2013-2016 NHANES data. The prevalence of depression in the non-Hispanic Asian subgroup (3.1%) of adults was significantly lower than depression among adults from the three other race-ethnic groups that we examined (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic.) We would like to acknowledge that the estimate for non-Hispanic Asian adults is for persons self-identified as belonging to any Asian origin subgroup. In our study, adults of Chinese, Indian, Filipino, and every other Asian-origin are all grouped together because we do not have the sample sizes to show the prevalence for separate Asian origin groups. Other studies have found lower and more moderate estimates of depression among Asian adults compared with those from other race and ethnic groups.

Q: How has the prevalence of depression changed in the past 10 years?

DB/LP: Our data show that over the past 10 years, the percentage of adults who have depression has stayed relatively stable. A point to consider is that the NHANES surveys do not include persons in the military, or those living in institutions like hospitals or nursing homes where adults may be at higher risk for depression. In addition, we did not include in our analysis persons currently being treated for depression or taking medications, unless they screened positively for depression in our survey.

Q: What is the take-home message of this report?

DB/LP: We think the real take-home message of this study is the seriousness of depression, a common mental disorder—and how emotional and physical problems that are symptoms of depression impact the everyday life of those affected by depression. We found that overall, about one out of every 12 U.S. adults have depression in any given 2-week period. Depression rates are higher in some population subgroups—like among women as compared to men—and among adults from low income families as compared to those from higher incomes. Among U.S adults who have depression, managing daily activities—at work and at home—poses at least some difficulty.

Stat of the Day – June 8, 2017

June 8, 2017

Depression in the U.S. Household Population, 2009–2012

December 4, 2014

Depression is a serious medical illness with mood, cognitive, and physical symptoms. Depression is associated with higher rates of chronic disease, increased health care utilization, and impaired functioning. Rates of treatment remain low, and the treatment received is often inadequate.

A new NCHS report examines both depression and depressive symptom severity in the past 2 weeks from a symptom-based questionnaire, by demographic characteristics, functioning difficulties, and recent contact with a mental health professional. Severity is categorized as severe, moderate, mild, or no depressive symptoms. Current depression is defined as severe or moderate symptoms; no depression is defined as mild or no symptoms.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • During 2009–2012, 7.6% of Americans aged 12 and over had depression (moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past 2 weeks). Depression was more prevalent among females and persons aged 40–59.
  • About 3% of Americans aged 12 and over had severe depressive symptoms, while almost 78% had no symptoms.
  • Persons living below the poverty level were nearly 2½ times more likely to have depression than those at or above the poverty level.
  • Almost 43% of persons with severe depressive symptoms reported serious difficulties in work, home, and social activities.
  • Of those with severe symptoms, 35% reported having contact with a mental health professional in the past year.


Antidepressant Use in Americans 12 and Older

October 24, 2011

Surprisingly, only a third of the people with severe psychological symptoms actually take antidepressant medication. Despite this fact, antidepressants are still the third most commonly prescribed drug taken by Americans of all ages. From 2005-2008, cholesterol-lowering drugs and analgesics, also known as painkillers, were the top two most prescribed drugs, with antidepressants following closely behind. A recent report on Antidepressant use in persons 12 and older: United States, 2005-2008 found that 11% of Americans 12 and over take antidepressants, of these people, over half have taken them for two or more years.

Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to take antidepressant medication than people of other races, although there was no difference in the usage of these types of medication based on income. Women were also more likely to take medication for severe depressive symptoms, about 40%. Many people take more than one antidepressant, although this study did not provide any data on how many medications taken per person.

Seeing a mental health professional is critical in tracking depression; the more drugs prescribed to a person, the more likely it is that they have seen a mental health professional in the past year. However, less than one third of persons taking just one antidepressant have seen a mental health professional in the past year. The data found in this study brings about many questions. How many people out there are in need of medication, yet refuse, or are unable, to get help? What are the long term effects of taking antidepressants in teenagers? And perhaps most importantly, why are there so many people taking antidepressants?

To view the full report please visit:

Related articles:

Medical News Today uses data from survey-

ABC Action News Report-

Cigarette smoking linked to depression in adults

April 21, 2010

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (2005-2008) has found that adults ages 20 and over with depression were more likely to be cigarette smokers than those without depression.  This key finding is the focus of a new report from NCHS, “Depression and Smoking in the U.S. Household Population Aged 20 and Over, 2005-2008.” This report also found the following:                        

  • Women with depression had smoking rates similar to men with depression, while women without depression smoked less than men.
  • Over one-half of men with depression ages 40–54 were current smokers compared with 26 percent of men without depression of the same age.
  • Among women ages 40–54, of those with depression, 43 percent were smokers compared with 22 percent of those without depression.
  • Among adult smokers, those with depression smoked more heavily than those without depression. They were more likely to smoke their first cigarette within 5 minutes of awakening and to smoke more than one pack of cigarettes per day.
  • Adults with depression were less likely to quit smoking than those without depression.

The graph below shows the percentage of adult smokers with depression from 2005-2008:

 For more, visit:

Depression in the United States

January 20, 2010

Depression is a common and debilitating illness. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is characterized by changes in mood, self-attitude, cognitive functioning, sleep, appetite, and energy level. Here’s some facts about depression in the U.S. you may not know:

  • More than 1 in 20 Americans age 12 and over have depression.
  • More than 1 in 7 poor Americans have depression.
  • Rates of depression were higher in 40-59 year olds, women, and non-Hispanic black persons than in other demographic groups (see the chart below).

For more information, please visit the NCHS FastStats page on depression at, or visit