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National Depression Screening Day - October 7


Whether for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or depression, health screenings provide a quick and easy way to spot the first signs of serious illness and can reach people who might not otherwise seek professional medical advice.

Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting millions of Americans each year. And like screenings for other illnesses, depression screenings should be a routine part of healthcare.

To rapidly monitor changes in mental health status and access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct the Household Pulse Survey (HPS). During August 2020–February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, and the percentage of those reporting unmet mental health care needs increased from 9.2% to 11.7%. Increases were largest among adults aged 18–29 years and those with less than a high school education.

These findings are consistent with results from surveys conducted early in the COVID-19 pandemic (March–June 2020) that showed an increased prevalence of mental health symptoms, especially among young adults (5–7). The more recent results indicate an increasing prevalence over time later in 2020, which remained increased in early 2021. The trends in symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder from HPS have been shown to be consistent with trends in the weekly number of reported COVID-19 cases, and it has been theorized that increases in these mental health indicators correspond with pandemic trends.

Basic Facts about Depression

  • Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting 6.7% (more than 16 million) of American adults each year.
  • Depression causes people to lose pleasure in daily life, can complicate other medical conditions, and can even be serious enough to lead to suicide.
  • Depression can occur to anyone, at any age, and to people of any race or ethnic group.  Depression is never a "normal" part of life, no matter what your age, gender, or health situation.
  • While the majority of individuals with depression have a full remission of the disorder with effective treatment, only about a third (35.3%) of those suffering from severe depression seek treatment from a mental health professional. Too many people resist treatment because they believe depression isn't serious, that they can treat it themselves, or that it is a personal weakness rather than a serious medical illness.


Many things can contribute to clinical depression. For some people, a number of factors seem to be involved, while for others a single factor can cause the illness. Oftentimes, people become depressed for no apparent reason.


People with depression may have too little or too much of certain brain chemicals, called "neurotransmitters." Changes in these brain chemicals may cause or contribute to depression.


People with negative thinking patterns and low self-esteem are more likely to develop clinical depression.


More women experience depression than men. While the reasons for this are still unclear, they may include the hormonal changes women go through during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Other reasons may include the stress caused by the multiple responsibilities that women have.


Depression is more likely to occur along with certain illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and hormonal disorders.


Side effects of some medications can bring about depression.


A family history of depression increases the risk of developing the illness. Some studies also suggest that a combination of genes and environmental factors work together to increase the risk for depression.


Difficult life events, including divorce, financial problems, or the death of a loved one can contribute to depression.


Types of Depression

Depressive Disorders are a category of mood disorders that involve extended periods of feeling extremely low and disrupt a person’s ability to enjoy life. Some of the most common Depressive Disorders include:

Major Depressive Disorder (clinical depression)

A mental health condition characterized by an inescapable and ongoing low mood often accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in activities that a person used to find enjoyable. To meet the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), symptoms must be present nearly every day for at least 2 weeks. MDD is also often referred to as Major Depression.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Refers to a longer-lasting form of depression. While Major Depressive Disorder is diagnosed if an individual experiences symptoms for at least 2 weeks, Persistent Depressive Disorder is used when symptoms of depression are present on most days for at least two years but do not reach the severity of a major depressive episode. (Prior to the release of the DSM-5 this was more commonly known as Dysthymia.)

Post-Partum Depression

Post-partum depression starts after childbirth and lasts at least two weeks, up to a year. Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder may surface during or after pregnancy. Additionally, birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder or a severe but rare condition called postpartum psychosis can happen following childbirth.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

This is a severe form of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome that is diagnosed when a woman experiences severe symptoms of depression, tension, and irritability in the week prior to menstruation. While it isn’t uncommon for most women to experience emotional and physical changes prior to menstruation, women who meet the criteria for PMDD experience changes that impact their lives in more profound ways.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder involving symptoms of depression associated with varying levels of sunlight during the fall and winter months which subsides during spring and summer.



Depression is very treatable, with the overwhelming majority of those who seek treatment showing improvement. The most commonly used treatments are antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Learn more about therapy and medication.

The choice of treatment depends on the pattern, severity, persistence of depressive symptoms, and history of the illness. As with many illnesses, early treatment is more effective and helps prevent the likelihood of serious recurrences. Depression must be treated by a physician or qualified mental health professional.

For some people, depression can be very stubborn to treat and may require additional treatment options. Learn more here - Dealing with Treatment-resistant Depression: What to Do When Treatment Doesn't Seem to Work.


Depression Screening

Depression is among the leading causes of disability in persons 15 years and older. It affects individuals, families, businesses, and society and is common in patients seeking care in the primary care setting. Depression is also common in postpartum and pregnant women and affects not only the woman but her child as well.

The USPSTF found convincing evidence that screening improves the accurate identification of adult patients with depression in primary care settings, including pregnant and postpartum women.

It's very important—especially if this is your first time seeking treatment for depression—that you obtain a referral to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional if your general practitioner suspects depression.

Though your family doctor or general practitioner may offer to prescribe you an antidepressant, they are not always the best-qualified doctor to treat depression. There's a tendency for some new patients to visit a counselor or psychologist for their initial mental health evaluation rather than a psychiatrist. And while can be beneficial for many people, especially if your case is not severe, but for others, it's often not enough.

An online mental health screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. 

Please note: Online screening tools are meant to be a quick snapshot of your mental health. If your results indicate you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, consider sharing your results with someone. A mental health provider (such as a doctor or a therapist) can give you a full assessment and talk to you about options for how to feel better.

Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 


International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression


Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)



American Psychiatric Association



Anxiety and Depression Association of America

(240) 485-1001


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)




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