Study Shows Adolescents With Major Depressive Disorder Need More Focused Care

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A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry highlights the importance of early identification and intervention for depression in American children.

The researchers used data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents who participated in the National Comorbidity Survey – Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A) to evaluate for symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) as it was defined in the DSM-IV. Participants were between the ages of 13 and 18 years old, reflecting the most common period for depression to develop in adolescents.

The team, led by Dr. Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Intramural Research Program, found MDD was highly common among the adolescents, whether measured over lifetime (11%) or only the past year (7.5%). The researchers saw rates of MDD rose greatly across adolescence and females were 2 to 3 times more likely to develop MDD compared to males.

The teens with MDD also showed high levels of impairment and substantial comorbidity with other mental conditions. Over half the participants in the study (60.4%) received some form of treatment, but a much lower percentage received treatment specific for the disorder (33.9%) or treatment from the mental health sector (34.9%).

“One of the major concerns raised by these findings was the substantial proportion of those with severe major depression who reported a history of suicide attempts, yet many had not received care in either the medical or mental health sectors,” said Dr. Shelli Avenevoli, the lead author, who was involved in the development of the NCS-A.

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