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Depression Among Teens Has Increased in Recent Years

Sad teen sitting on a couch in a living room  

Throughout American history, mental health issues have rarely been discussed openly. This left many people feeling uncomfortable talking about their mental health conditions. In recent years, however, this stigma has begun to lift. National discussions about mental health have become increasingly visible.

Some of these discussions focus on teen mental health, which is important because teen depression is rising exponentially. A new study suggests a worrisome increase in the number of teens who are struggling with mental health issues. The data shows that nearly 15% of American teenagers experienced major depressive episodes in 2018.

Teenage Girls Especially Affected by Depression

In particular, girls are more likely to be affected by depression. Teen mental health statistics revealed that an estimated 1 out of 5 girls have experienced depression in the past year. A recent study that followed teen girls in college found that attempted suicide rates have also seen an unfortunate rise.

While these trends are increasing, researchers have previously established that girls tend to be at a higher risk of developing depression. There’s no one answer that explains why, but researchers point to some key differences that may play a role. These factors include:

  • Girls are often exposed to a wider variety of social stressors
  • Girls are expected to put more importance on the status of their peer relationships and friendships
  • Girls might be more likely to internalize feelings and dwell on stressful experiences
  • Girls can be more sensitive to distress

Signs of Depression in Teenagers

Someone who has never experienced depression might expect that sadness is the condition’s primary symptom. While sadness and low mood are certainly signs of depression, depressed teens are just as likely to experience apathy, social withdrawal and indifference as well.

Regardless of whether your teen is a boy or girl, it’s important to watch for signs of depression. Signs include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Decreased energy, fatigue and feeling “slowed down”
  • Insomnia, oversleeping or other sleep issues
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Physical pain symptoms that do not respond to treatment
  • Persistent sad or “empty” mood
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Cause of Depression Not Yet Understood

Parents of a depressed teen are often at a loss as to why their child is depressed. It’s common for parents to try “fixing” their child’s problems or shifting their attitudes. However, mental health conditions are complicated and cannot simply be “fixed.”

Mental health is linked to a number of social, environmental and biological factors. That said, some circumstances can contribute toward teen depression, such as:

  • Substance misuse
  • Irregular and insufficient sleep
  • Increased screen time on social media
  • Parental pressure
  • Social isolation.

It can be difficult to watch a child struggle with mental health issues. Parents often don’t know what to do or how to address their teen’s mental health struggle. Fortunately, there are many mental health services for teens that can lend a helping hand. Specializing in teen mental health, these facilities are staffed by trained professionals who help families find the treatment their children need.

In some cases, teens misuse substances in an attempt to self-medicate, which only worsens their condition. If your teen is struggling with depression and a co-occurring substance use disorder, Next Generation Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can work well for your child.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Find Health for Girls and Teens.” (n.d.). Accessed October 13, 2019.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” August 2019. Accessed October 13, 2019.

Lehman, Charles. “America’s Teens Keep Getting More Unhappy

New data show another rise in adolescent depression.” The Washington Free Beacon, September 7, 2019. Accessed October 13, 2019.

Duffy, M.E., Twenge, J.M., Joiner, T.E. “Trends in Mood and Anxiety Symptoms and Suicide-Related Outcomes Among U.S. Undergraduates, 2007-2018: Evidence From Two National Surveys.” The Journal of Adolescent Health, July 3, 2019. Accessed October 13, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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