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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 12:45 EDT

Depression in the United States

December 26, 2008

Before now, very little has been known about how many Americans suffer from chronic depression and anxiety.  The question: of those who do suffer how many receive effective treatments that are available?

In the first of its kind study, University of California, Los Angeles researchers found estimates for both the prevalence of chronic psychiatric illness in the U.S. and how often individuals suffering from such illnesses receive appropriate treatment.

Researchers found approximately 4.7 percent of the nation’s population suffer from persistent depression or anxiety disorders. They also found a minority of those afflicted receive adequate medication or counseling.

The study was based on data from Healthcare for Communities, a nationally representative survey of adults in the U.S. Researchers took this data and analyzed responses from 1,642 adults with major depression or anxiety disorders. They also conducted follow-ups two years later and found 59 percent of the individuals no longer met criteria for having a psychiatric illness. However, they also found of those who remained ill there was only a modest increase in medication use and no statistically significant increase in counseling for their disorder.

“From a policy perspective, this study indicates that we have to do much better in terms of helping people in the population and clinicians in primary care,” lead author Dr. Alexander S. Young, UCLA professor of psychiatry and director of health services for the Department of Veterans Affairs Desert Pacific Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center, was quoted as saying.

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