The true impact of depression in the U.S.

 By Lacie Glover It wasn’t that long ago that mental illness was under the radar—denied, misunderstood, and rarely acknowledged. While the stigma of mental health issues…
The true impact of depression in the U.S.

Let’s take a look at one of the most common mental health afflictions in the U.S.— depression. (Photo Shutterstock)

 By Lacie Glover

It wasn’t that long ago that mental illness was under the radar—denied, misunderstood, and rarely acknowledged. While the stigma of mental health issues is breaking down little by little, there is work yet to be done. Part of the reason a stigma exists is because of the perception that mental illness is a non-issue— controllable and without much impact.

SEE ALSO: Dealing with Valentine’s Day depression 

Let’s take a look at one of the most common mental health afflictions in the U.S.— depression.Here’s a breakdown of depression’s true cost and why taking care of the depressed is important.

Who is affected?

As a general rule, women are more likely to be affected by depression than men, and this is especially true for minority women. Latina girls, in particular, exhibit more depressive symptoms than white and African American girls, and as many as 46% of Latinas having been affected by depression at some time in their lives.

Young adults are also more likely to be affected, having a disproportionate number of major depressive episodes (MDEs)  than older Americans.

The impact on overall health

You may be surprised that people with depressive disorders are more likely to have other health problems. Depression is the 4th leading cause of disability worldwide, and is predicted to be the second leading cause worldwide by 2020. People with depression are also more likely to be obese, abuse alcohol, and smoke tobacco.

Depressive disorders are a predictor for many serious health conditions down the line like coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, and certain cancers. While this doesn’t mean depression causes these disorders, people with depression are more likely to develop these and other serious conditions.

The impact on finances

Depressed individuals are less productive at work, with depressive disorders a leading cause of work absenteeism. Additionally, those affected by depression tend to make less money than their counterparts, and are more likely to become unemployed.

Although many people don’t seek treatment for depression due to lack of coverage, those who do must be willing to pay. A new NerdWallet study on the impact of depression found that the average cost of antidepressants is $777 per year. For those who are hospitalized, the average price tag is $8,404—a trip to the emergency room doesn’t come cheap.

Health care reform should help address some of these issues, the study predicts, since 62.5 million Americans will start receiving mental health care. This includes depression screening for all adults and adolescents, and prescription drug coverage for a variety of mental health drugs.

The impact on society

All major medical and psychiatric associations recognize depression as a legitimate diagnosis that should be addressed. Even still, depression affects an estimated 5-8% of Americans, a third of whom aren’t seeking treatment. What’s more, only 2.4% of primary care physicians regularly screen for depression.

Addressing the stigma and getting affordable care for these individuals is key to improving their quality of life. In turn, their families and communities will be stronger. If you or your teen has been suffering from symptoms like hopelessness, lost of interest, general sadness, or difficulty concentrating, speak up. Ask your primary care provider for a depression screening—there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

SEE ALSO: Depression in Latinos: A look at the concerning rates

Lacie Glover writes for NerdWallet Health, a website that empowers consumers to find high quality, affordable health care and insurance.