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America's Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014

Major Depressive Episode

Depression has a significant impact on young adults' development and well-being. A Major Depressive Episode (MDE) is defined as a period of at least two weeks in the past year when a person self-reported experiencing a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had at least four additional symptoms (such as problems with sleeping, eating, energy, concentration, and feelings of self-worth).56 MDE with severe impairment caused the highest severity level of impairment in at least one major role domain (home, school/work, family relationships, or social life).

Indicator Health4: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who reported they had at least one Major Depressive Episode (MDE) in the past year by gender, 2005–2012, and at least one MDE with severe impairment in the past year by gender, 2008–2012
Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who reported they had at least one Major Depressive Episode (MDE) in the past year by gender, 2005–2012, and at least one MDE with severe impairment in the past year by gender, 2008–2012

a In 2008, a split-sample design assigned adults ages 18 or older randomly to one of two impairment scales, the World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule (WHODAS) or the Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS). For comparability purposes, estimates for Major Depressive Episode (MDE) among persons who received treatment for depression in 2008 are based only on the WHODAS half-sample. For details, see Section B.4.3 in Appendix B of the Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings.

NOTE: New adult mental health questions were added to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) questionnaire, which caused discontinuities in trends for MDE and for MDE with severe impairment among adults. However, an adjustment was applied to estimates of MDE that were affected by these questionnaire changes to allow trends in MDE among adults ages 18–24 from 2005 to 2012 to be included in this figure.

SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

  • From 2005 to 2012, the prevalence of past-year Major Depressive Episode (MDE) was about twice as high among young adult females ages 18–24 (ranging from 10 to 12 percent) as among their male counterparts (ranging from 5 to 6 percent).
  • Similarly, from 2008 to 2012, the prevalence of past-year MDE with severe impairment was about twice as high among young adult females (ranging from 7 to 8 percent) as among their male counterparts (ranging from 3 to 4 percent).
  • The prevalence of past-year MDE among young adults was similar between 2005 (8.9 percent) and 2012 (9.0 percent). Moreover, among young adults, the prevalence of past-year MDE with severe impairment remained stable between 2008 (5.6 percent) and 2012 (5.8 percent).

table icon YAHEALTH4 HTML Table

56 As described in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).