Teen depression increased dramatically during the pandemic, but treatment did not follow | ET REALITY


About 20 percent of teens had symptoms of major depressive disorder in 2021, the first full calendar year of the pandemic, but fewer than half of those who needed treatment received it. according to a new study.

The research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that treatment was poorer in minority adolescents, particularly those who are Latino and mixed race.

Major depressive disorder is a chronic condition that arises in episodes of Depressed mood and loss of joy, with symptoms lasting at least two weeks.. It is different from persistent depressive disorder, in which symptoms last two years or more.

Previous research showed that the prevalence of major depressive disorder among adolescents nearly doubled recently, rising to 15.8 percent in 2019 from 8.1 percent in 2009. The Covid-19 pandemic amplified this trend as it led to isolation, uncertainty, loneliness and fear of illness among family members.

The new study on the prevalence of major depressive disorder in 2021 was based on a nationally representative sample of 10,700 adolescents, ages 12 to 17, whose experiences were recorded by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The study found some marked differences in the prevalence of the condition between racial and ethnic groups. About 14.5 percent of black adolescents, 14.6 percent of Asian adolescents, and 20 percent of white adolescents reported symptoms of major depressive disorder. Latino teens experienced major depressive disorder at a slightly higher rate, about 23 percent.

Although Latino and mixed-race adolescents had the highest rates of major depressive disorder, they had the lowest rates of treatment, the study found. Twenty-one percent of mixed-race teens and 29 percent of Latino teens with the condition received treatment, compared to nearly half of white teens. Treatment rates for Asian and black adolescents fell in the middle.

The study overlaps with previous research that found that racial and ethnic minority teens had fewer treatment options than their white peers, with the gaps most evident for teens living in low-income communities.

The study authors called on policymakers to recognize inequalities in treatment that were “highlighted” by the pandemic. “As we move forward,” they concluded in the document, “policy and clinical efforts must be directed at adolescents as a whole and marginalized populations in particular, to ensure timely access to high-quality mental health treatment.”

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