Major depression in the national comorbidity survey-adolescent supplement: prevalence, correlates, and treatment

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2015 Jan;54(1):37-44.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.10.010. Epub 2014 Oct 29.


Objective: To present the 12-month prevalence of DSM-IV major depressive disorder (MDD) and severe MDD; to examine sociodemographic correlates and comorbidity; and to describe impairment and service use.

Method: Data are from the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), a nationally representative survey of 10,123 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years that assesses DSM-IV disorders using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) Version 3.0. One parent or surrogate of each participating adolescent was also asked to complete a self-administered questionnaire.

Results: Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of MDD were 11.0% and 7.5%, respectively. The corresponding rates of severe MDD were 3.0% and 2.3%. The prevalence of MDD increased significantly across adolescence, with markedly greater increases among females than among males. Most cases of MDD were associated with psychiatric comorbidity and severe role impairment, and a substantial minority reported suicidality. The prevalence of severe MDD was about one-fourth of that of all MDD cases; estimates of impairment and clinical correlates were of 2- to 5-fold greater magnitude for severe versus mild/moderate depression, with markedly higher rates for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Treatment in any form was received by the majority of adolescents with 12-month DSM-IV MDD (60.4%), but only a minority received treatment that was disorder-specific or from the mental health sector.

Conclusion: Findings underscore the important public health significance of depression among US adolescents and the urgent need to improve screening and treatment access in this population.

Keywords: adolescence; depression; epidemiology; service use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology