Prevalence of Chronic Depression in the US

What percentage of adults suffer from chronic depression?


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Map of the prevalence of chronic depression in the US.

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Depression and mental health in general, is often a medical issue that doesn’t get the attention it requires. Especially since the pandemic, the rates of depression seem to have gone up. I’m very curious to see how the pandemic has affected these numbers once the pandemic is over and all data is collected. Once the 2022 data is published, I will make a map showing the change in depression rates. Today however, we’re going to look at the 2019 numbers.

The rates of depression are highest in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Where the percentage is over 26 percent for most of the counties. A lot of states in the Deep South, but also in the north-west report a percentage of people suffering from chronic depression.

The percentage is lower in most of the Great Plains and the south-west of the US. Connecticut, Alaska and Hawaii have a relatively low prevalence of chronic depression.

One of the most interesting things, is the sharp differences between some neighbouring states. This could be caused by specific state policies that make life more difficult in some states (e.g., higher taxes, less social programs). But it could also be the result of a difference in the quality of mental healthcare.

Recently we looked at the prevalence of chronic depression in Europe. When comparing the two, it does seem that chronic depression is slightly more prevalent in the US.

The data for this map comes from a survey, which asks people whether they’ve been diagnosed with chronic depression. This means the estimate is based on actual diagnosis and not self-reported data. The difference with self-reported data, is that some people might be suffering from chronic depression, but never seek help from a mental health professional and therefore have not been diagnosed with chronic depression. An estimate based on self-reported data would include a lot of these people. On the other hand, a diagnosis by a mental health professional will be far more accurate than a diagnosis based on self-reported data.

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