One in 13 Suffered Major Depressive Episode

Chances are good that someone you know suffered or will suffer from a major depressive episode (MDE), according to a nationwide study by the U.S. government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA’s 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)). An estimated 16.5 million people in the United States, one in 13 adults aged 18 or over (7.5 percent), experienced major depression during the study’s one-year time frame. While their May 2009 news release reports that approximately two-thirds of people suffering from a major depressive episode sought help initially, less than half followed up with the recommended mental health professional counseling, took medication for the disorder or both. The research reveals why one-third did not seek even initial help, the rate of people who followed up with counseling or medication, the rates of depression among certain age groups and a significant general health association with the occurrence of a major depressive episode (MDE).

“The most frequently reported reasons for not receiving mental health services among these adults was not being able to afford the cost (43.2 percent), feeling they could handle the problem on their own (29.3 percent), not knowing where to go for services (18.1 percent), not having the time (16.7 percent), having health insurance that did not cover enough treatment (11.3 percent), and concerns about confidentiality (11.1 percent),” according to the SAMHSA news release.

Almost 45,000 civilian, non-institutionalized adults participated in the study. The research found that young people, aged 18 to 25, were slightly more likely to experience a major depressive episode (8.9 percent) as compared to people in the age group of 26 to 49 years (8.5), and that people aged 50 or over were less likely to experience it than both groups (5.8 percent). Almost a quarter (24 percent) of the people who experienced major depression and saw a doctor or mental health professional did not use a prescription medication for the disorder. The rate of MDE among people who reported poor or fair health was greater than three times as many as those who reported excellent health.

As the release reports, “MDE is defined as a period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, including problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.” Such episodes can last for weeks, months and even longer. Major depression can be severely debilitating, affecting employment, housing, relationships, legal status, health, and safety. Seeking help and following through with mental health counseling, often called psychotherapy, that is shown to help with depression and/or medication prescribed by a doctor or nurse practitioner (ARNP) is highly recommended if you or someone you know is experiencing depression.

Needless suffering can usually be avoided with psychotherapy or counseling and/or medication.


SAMHSA Nationwide report reveals that 1 in 13 adults experienced major depressive episode in the past year, SAMHSA News Release. Press Office, May 19, 2009, Internet source at

SAMHSA 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Internet source at

© Copyright 2009 by Jolyn Wells-Moran, PhD, MSW, therapist in Seattle, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • time on my side

    time on my side

    June 19th, 2009 at 7:42 AM

    These stats are shocking..i had no idea thatmany people suffered from depression. 1 know 1 in 13 is not that big of a ratio, but when you apply that to the entire population of, say canada or the us, then the number are staggeringly depressing…i guess i am one of the 13

  • Larson


    June 20th, 2009 at 11:47 AM

    I am not surprised at all to hear that this many people suffer from a depresisve episode at least once in their lives. I know many people in just my small circle of friends who have experienced this and none of us are ever shocked to hear that another one is going on meds to treat the symptoms. I am a little surprised though that older populations are not reporting as much of this because I have seen plenty of older adults who seem depressed to me. Maybe it is not that they are not as depressed but maybe that it is just going undocumented in this demographic.

  • heather


    June 21st, 2009 at 8:25 AM

    depressive episodes seem so common and according to the studies it is. I can understand the reasons why many don’t get help… between the price and tryin to handle it on their own.

  • Pauline


    June 22nd, 2009 at 9:27 AM

    Depression effects so many people, it is no wonder that studies like this are finally confirming that. Depression is a tough one to deal with and it is sad that so many people have to struggle with its effects.

  • Serena


    June 22nd, 2009 at 2:28 PM

    It just goes to show that these studies are so much needed to determine and evaluate depression and hopefully to keep us informed on how to detect it.

  • Gayle


    June 23rd, 2009 at 8:18 PM

    I think it is human psyche to first be embarassed to admit that one can handle a mental health issue. Very few adults over 35 have been known to take therapy. I think all these factors mentioned above are excuses in a majority. The main reason is the feeling of embarassment that stems out of an ill educated society about mental health.

  • Robert


    June 23rd, 2009 at 8:24 PM

    My wife was complaining of chest pain for a long time. We went to the doctor who referred us to a cardiologist on our insistence. The doctor ran everything possible and has referred her to a counselor as he feels she is having a psychosomatic condition. She has been depressed for years after losing our only child and not having any after that. We couldnt afford mental health treatment till recently. I am glad for the therapy sessions as I see a light emerging from the tunnel.

  • Ashli


    June 24th, 2009 at 6:45 AM

    No wonder I see the ads for depression meds on TV all of the time. . .

  • Monica


    June 25th, 2009 at 3:45 AM

    Sadly I think that many people recognize that they may be experiencing these kinds of problems but feel like they cannot afford the treatment. Either their insurance will not currently cover these costs or they live in fear that they will be denied future coverage because of the claims and treatments that they seek today. How sad that someone’s health life can be ruined or at least significantly reduced because of fears over insurance and what it will or will not pay!

  • Tracy


    June 28th, 2009 at 9:54 AM

    Maybe the environment in which people are raised play a big part in all of this.

  • Serena


    June 29th, 2009 at 3:15 AM

    Tracy, I think every interraction has a positive and negative effect on all human beings. I think i.e why we need to choose our friends or in other words those we trust with being ourself wisely. Everyone has their down days. I know when I am about to hit PMS. I also had a period of post partum depression. Never seeing a rainbow and a lack of interest in oneself is dangerous.

  • Carla


    July 1st, 2009 at 6:09 AM

    No surprise here. There are just too many things in society today pulling us in a million different directions that it can make your head spin. This is enough to get anyone seriously down in the dumps, especially who is already predisposed to this type of behavior.

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