Major Depression Diagnoses are on a Dramatic Rise

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Major depression affects more than nine-million commercially insured Americans.

This is according to the latest Blue Cross Blue Shield report that says depression is second only to high blood pressure.

KX Reporter Renée Cooper has been following this issue and how it affects North Dakotans.

Bismarck resident Nicci Johnson explains, “I was suffocating, I felt that the world was against me. I felt like anything good in my life was just about to be pulled out from underneath me.”

The 37-year-old is looking up these days, but she was diagnosed with major depression when she was 21.

Johnson adds, “When I was walking through a crazy season of my life.”

Those diagnosed with major depression are broken down into four age groups: adolescents, millennials, adults and mature adults.

Major depression diagnosis rates have steadily increased from 2013 to 2016 across all age groups.

But the most significant rise in diagnosis is among Americans under 35.

Sanford Psychologist Marie Schaaf Gallagher says, “The stressors that go along with developmental age and adolescence, you’re learning who you are and who your friends are, and where you’re going in life.”

And while the national diagnosis rate is 4.4 percent, here in North Dakota the rate is as high as five percent.

Gallagher explains, “We tend to see that [in] more rural areas, mental health is a bit more stigmatized, it’s not talked about as much.” 

According to Johnson, major depression doesn’t necessarily have an age or location.

She elaborates, “Maybe the sun doesn’t shine as often as we’d like it to in North Dakota, that could have something to do with it. Maybe it’s the way people are raised, maybe it’s the environment they’re in, maybe it’s the people they’re hanging out with or the places or the things they’re doing.”

She says depression will always be under the surface, but she’s learned to stay physically healthy and to focus on the positive. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield also noted that with major depression comes an increased likelihood of other chronic, behavioral health and pain-related conditions. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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