Youth Depression, Especially Among Teen Girls, Increasing

Girl looking at empty swing at sunsetMajor depression is increasing among adolescents and young adults, especially teenage girls, according to a review published in Pediatrics. One in six teen girls reported experiencing depression in the last year.

Rising Depression Rates Among Young People

To assess trends in depression, researchers pulled data from the 2005-2014 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. The representative surveys offer cross-sectional data on the general United States population. The data included information on 172,495 adolescents ages 12-17 and 178,755 young adults ages 18-25.

Annual depression trends revealed an increase in the diagnosis. In 2005, 8.7% of teens experienced major depression, which rose to 11.3% in 2014. This equates to an increase of more than half a million teenagers experiencing depression each year. The increase mostly occurred between 2011 and 2014, with depression rates remaining relatively stable between 2005 and 2011. In young adults, the rate rose from 8.8% in 2005 to 9.6% in 2014, but only for adults between the ages of 18 and 20.

Teen girls experienced a greater overall increase in depression than other demographic groups, with reports of depression rising from 13.1% in 2005 to 17.3% in 2014.

Understanding the Depression Increase

The study did not assess potential causes of the increase, but an editorial accompanying the study points to potential factors. Social media and cyberbullying are increasing sources of stress for young people, and there is evidence that girls may be exposed to more cyberbullying than boys due to more frequent mobile phone use. Economic factors and neighborhood violence could also play a role.

According to the study, young adults who had depression were more likely to be unemployed or employed only part-time. They were less likely to be married and more likely to have low incomes. The researchers did not discover a significant increase in the use of mental health services over the study period, suggesting many young people with depression do not get the help they need.

Depression can lead to suicide, particularly if left untreated. Research also suggests the suicide rate is rising. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show the suicide rate increased 2% every year from 2006-2014, reaching a 30-year high in 2014. That year, 42,773 people died by suicide.

The study’s authors call for further outreach efforts in schools and college health centers, as people who work in those places are often in the best position to detect any mental health concerns and direct young people to appropriate resources.


  1. Glowinski, A. L., & Damelio, G. (2016). Depression is a deadly growing threat to our youth: Time to rally. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2869
  2. Mojtabi, R., MD, PhD, MPH, Olffson, M., MD, MPH, & Han, B., MD, PhD, MPH. (2016). National trends in the prevalence and treatment of depression in adolescents and young adults. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1878

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  • Davina

    November 24th, 2016 at 5:55 PM

    There is all of this pressure on girls today to just be perfect, to look perfect and have the perfect clothes and do everything well, perfect, and that is a whole lot of stress for one to bear at such a young age.
    I even know that as an adult female it is hard to take it all the time so I understand that when these girls are young and vulnerable that it can even more challenging than what I feel today or from the experiences that I had myself when I was a teenager.
    Life can be brutal on these young girls, and it very much is not fair to witness how hard it can become on them.

  • Pate

    November 25th, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    This makes me so sad for these teen girls, knowing that who should be a happy go lucky and carefree time for them is turning into years of shame and depression instead.

    Our girls, and young men too, deserve so much better than this.

  • Riley

    November 25th, 2016 at 9:11 AM

    When are we ever going to wake up and see that this is not anything that we can be screwing around with?

    Kids, young kids, are losing their lives due to depression and suicide. This is not something that we can continue to ignore and pretend like it is going to go away because it clearly is not.

  • Geraldine

    November 26th, 2016 at 8:48 AM

    This does scare me for my own granddaughters. You always think that you are doing everything that you can for them but the one thing that we can’t force them to do is be happy and to not get overwhelmed with the anxiety and the depression that so many of them are obviously having to cope with.
    I see so many bad things happening and it makes me worry for them, and all I can do is to continue to love them and hopefully help them see a bright part of life that they may be unable to discover on their own.

  • Thomas

    November 26th, 2016 at 10:53 AM

    I sort of wonder why we are seeing the same spikes with our boys that we do with the girls. I am guessing that as females they are exposed to a lot more pressure to be perfect than our guys are and that begins to weigh pretty heavily on anyone.
    I wish that before we would inflict that kind of pain that we could all understand just how hard it is to be a teen today, and how much more pressure that most of them feel than we ever had a chance to feel.

  • rowe

    November 27th, 2016 at 1:32 PM

    I had so hoped that things would begin to get a little easier for these girls but sadly it is not at all.

  • Langley

    November 28th, 2016 at 2:57 PM

    Although this thankfully has not happened to my own children as far as I know but I know that cyberbullying is a big thing and there are may young people who are getting hurt by this every day. It is cruel and harsh and I just don’t understand why young people want to behave this way toward one another. They would definitely not want someone to do this to them so why they then feel that it is ok to do it to another person is beyond what I could ever understand.

  • liliana

    November 29th, 2016 at 2:08 PM

    I see this on a daily basis among my closest friends, but it feels like we are all drowning in that same sea of anxiety and stress and confusion and so none of us know any better what to do to help then the next girl does. I would like to say that we know what would help but really, I don’t know that and neither do they. I think that more than anything we just need people to see us, see that we struggle, and help us see that it is all going to be okay in the end,

  • Abdul a.

    July 5th, 2018 at 2:40 AM

    depression is the type of mental illness where most them are struggling come out from that world,negative thoughts will make them to feel uncomfortable,awareness is much needed kreep doing this great work and keep sharing.

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