Trends in Teen Depression


Trends in teen depression appear to be in a constant state of flux, but there are a few correlations between depression and various situations of which both teens and their parents should be aware.

About Trends in Teen Depression

It can be difficult to gather facts about teenage depression, mainly because so many teens are reluctant to talk about their feelings. However, the following information shows there are certain trends that are related to depressive behavior.

Depression and Suicide

According to Dr. David Pruett, past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and author of Your Adolescent: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development from Early Adolescence Through the Teen Years, the rate of teen suicides has been increasing since the 1970s, and nearly half a million teens will attempt suicide each year. As of 2008, the AACAP maintains that suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens and the sixth leading cause of death in children and tweens. Those are rather disturbing facts indeed, especially when you consider that most of these deaths are related to some form of depression.

Copy-cat suicides are another disturbing trend that seems to come and go in phases. The rate of teenage suicides tends to increase whenever the news media sensationalizes reports of teen suicide cases. The medical community believes that this phenomenon is related to teens who are already experiencing some level of depression and/or other forms of mental illness.

Depression and Sexual Activity

According to The Heritage Foundation, a study conducted by the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health revealed a correlation between teen depression and sexual activity. The study revealed that sexually active teens were far more likely to feel depressed. However, the report did not reach a clear conclusion whether depression actually caused teens to pursue sex as a relief from their emotions or if sexual activity and feelings of guilt associated with it led to the depression. Whichever the case may be, the suicide rate associated with teen sexual activity will likely follow it's upward or downward trends.

Depression and Insomnia

For years, researchers have believed that insomnia was one of the many ways depression manifests itself. However, there is growing evidence that prolonged periods of insomnia may precede and possibly predict a bout of depression. A 2008 report of a study conducted at the Zurich University Psychiatric Hospital in Switzerland concluded that as little as two weeks of insomnia was enough to trigger a depressive episode in susceptible young adults. However, the study also concluded that insomnia doesn't always lead to depression.

Today's teens are increasingly pressured to achieve more, participate in numerous activities to increase their chances of getting into a good college and generally grow up faster than in generations past. If this trend continues, it's feasible that incidents of teen insomnia will also rise. Based on the information in the Zurich study, there may likely be upward trends in related teen depression as well.

Did You Know...

Depression affects more that just a teen's mood. Teens who suffer from some form of depression are more likely to:

  • Progress to cigarette addiction after trying smoking
  • Try alcohol and become dependent on it
  • Engage in risky sexual behaviors

Treatment Trends

The advent of antidepressants resulted in many teens being treated with medications throughout the 1980s and '90s. However, reports of an increasing number of related teen suicides led the Food and Drug Administration to determine if there appeared to be a correlation between use of antidepressants and a risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts in depressed teens. As a result, some physicians have become more cautious about prescribing antidepressants and instead use other therapies including one-on-one counseling and exercise therapy when appropriate. Antidepressents are still prescribed for teens when a case warrants their use, and are even used in conjunction with other therapies. However, teen patients are now monitored much closer than in the past.

For more information about coping with trends in teen depression, visit LoveToKnow Recovery for an interview with Gary E. Nelson, author of A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression.

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Trends in Teen Depression