Depression is a common but serious mental illness that is often episodic and can occur at any age.  Some populations—youth, pregnant or postpartum women, and the elderly—are disproportionately affected:

  • In 2014, 11.4 % of adolescents 12-17 years experienced at least one episode of major depression in the last year.  Less than half of those adolescents received treatment for depression.
  • Nearly 12% of college freshmen report feeling depressed.
  • In 2015, about 6.7% of US adults age 18 or older experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Women (8.4%) were affected more frequently than men (4.7%). About 11% of women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Nearly 12% of college freshmen report feeling depressed.
  • Of the active-duty soldiers who sought help from a chaplain within the previous year, 50.8% screened positive for
  • Lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals were diagnosed with a depressive disorder more than two and a half times their heterosexual counterparts.
  • In 2014, 15 percent of women age 65 and over reported depressive symptoms, compared with 10 percent of men. There was no significant change in this difference between the sexes from 1998 to 2014.


Depression in children and adolescents can sometimes manifest as irritability rather than low mood.  Risk factors include personal or family history of depression; major life changes, trauma, or stress; and certain physical illnesses and medications.  Signs and symptoms can vary by individual, but if the symptoms persist every day for two weeks, a person should seek help from a medical professional.  People who report many depressive symptoms often experience higher rates of physical illness, greater functional disability, higher health care resource utilization, and dementia.


Depression is treatable through a variety of treatment options, which can include different types of therapies and antidepressant medications.  Antidepressants are medications that may improve mood and the way the brain handles stress.  The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) supports the use of evidence-based treatments, which includes but is not limited to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy.  For more information on therapies and medications, please visit:   (


NIMH has provided a free helpful publication  about depression, which can be downloaded at


NC HealthInfo provides links to resources for managing depression:


Clinicians may find the VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline on major depressive disorder ( or the VA/DoD pocket card ( to be useful.