Downs and Ups

An updated look at the broad impact of depression.

By Deniz Sahinturk, published July 2, 2018 - last reviewed on September 3, 2018


As many as one in five U.S. adults have struggled in their lifetimes with major depression—characterized by sullen mood, lack of pleasure in daily activities, and other symptoms—according to a recent analysis. The findings provide an updated look at the broad impact of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), including who experiences it and how.

In the first study of its kind to use criteria from the latest diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, researchers analyzed data from a 2012-2013 survey of roughly 36,000 people. More than 10 percent had met the threshold for a depressive episode in the previous year alone. That's nearly double the rate from a 2001-2002 survey, though part of the change could be due to methodological differences. The rate of those with any prior experience of MDD who said they received treatment also rose, from about 61 to 69 percent.

Certain groups were found to be more likely to have dealt with MDD, including women, people from low-income households, and those with substance abuse problems. "Substance abuse is highly stigmatized," says lead author Deborah Hasin, a psychiatric epidemiologist at the Columbia University Medical Center. "Clinicians should have an open mind when treating such patients and test them for symptoms of MDD as well."


  • 32: Average age at first depression treatment
  • 13.4% of women experienced MDD in the previous year
  • 7.2% of men experienced MDD in the previous year
  • 74.6% of cases also included symptoms of anxious distress