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Why Are So Many Americans Depressed?

Depression is something that touches everyone at some point. For some, it’s a chronic and crippling condition; for others, it’s short-lived and manageable. But why does it seem like the rates of depression are increasing in the United States? Are we really getting more depressed, and, if so, what’s behind this sudden rise? In conducting research for the release of Activate, a product that can help with cognition and mood, we came across some startling statistics about the mental health of the United States, and it’s those stats that we’d like to share in this article.

 

How Many Americans Are Depressed?

In the summer of 2020, the CDC released a report stating that nearly a third of all Americans had recently been struggling with anxiety or depression. It’s a shocking statistic, but it gets worse, as more than 1 in 10 admitted to having suicidal thoughts in the 30 days prior to the survey. Of course, 2020 was a unique year, and one that left a devastating impact on all of us. But while these figures do seem to be inflated when compared to other years, it’s still a problem that seems to be on the rise. The CDC also reports that close to 50,000 Americans take their lives every year and that 1 in 4 adults aged 18 to 24 has considered suicide. So, what’s happening here, and why is America (and the developed world on the whole) seemingly more depressed and anxious than ever?

 

More Debt; Less Opportunities

Older generations like to claim that “kids nowadays” have it easier than ever. They don’t have to leave school when they are 14 to go and work on the farm. They don’t have to worry about conscription, etc., In truth, younger people are under an immense amount of stress and are often not equipped to deal with it. Sure, they have access to good healthcare, great education, and clean living. They are also living in the most technologically advanced time in human history. But at the same time, they have to deal with: • Debt: Student loans, credit card bills, personal loans, medical bills—young people have vast amounts of debt and it’s growing with each passing year. It’s not like they have a choice in the matter, either. They need those credit cards to live; they need those loans to get an education. • Limited Opportunities: High-paying jobs are few and far between these days, and there are more applicants in line for each position. It means that people are acquiring debt to get through college, only to spend years looking for work and struggling to keep a roof over their heads. • Increasing Prices: Even when those jobs are available, they pay much less than they used to, and with the rising cost of rent and living, it’s harder for people to sustain themselves. To make matters worse, they may have been raised in homes where the parents weren’t very understanding about mental health issues, and simply weren’t willing to discuss the subject.

 

Technology

The internet has opened a lot of doors and social media has also brought us closer together. However, the constant connectivity is making people more anxious and is giving them unrealistic expectations. They see glimpses of their friends enjoying themselves, and they immediately compare their own lives. Inevitably, those comparisons make them depressed because their friends are only posting highlight reels. We’re also much more exposed to criticism than we have ever been as a society, as people who wouldn’t say anything to your face are perfectly happy to say it online. In decades gone by, kids dealt with bullies on the playground, returned home, and surrounded themselves with guardians, parents, and friends who protected them from all of that. These days, they deal with the bullies at school, and then again on social media when they return home. Technology has also made us more aware of the chaos that’s around us every day. We’re all tuned into the 24/7 news cycle, one that constantly spews content relating to death, destruction, disease, and misery. A child of the 80s didn’t stress much about the Cold War or the Chernobyl disaster, but it’s not uncommon for a child of today to worry about Global Warming, Pandemics, Water Shortages, and other issues that society is dealing with.

 

More Tolerance

Although rates of depression and anxiety seem to be increasing, we’re also getting much more tolerant and accepting as a society. Decades ago, people kept their problems to themselves and, unfortunately, were often frowned upon and given negative labels if they opened up. These days, it’s perfectly normal to tell your friends that you’re feeling depressed or anxious. It’s also normal to get help, whether that means accepting medication from your doctor or visiting a therapist. As a result, it’s fair to assume that part of the increase is down to people being more open with their mental health struggles. After all, if more people are willing to get help, open up to friends, and talk about their struggles with researchers, then the figures will naturally increase. That’s not to say that increasing depression/anxiety rates are entirely the result of improved reporting, as they are most definitely not. However, it certainly seems to have played a role, and if that means more people are getting the help they need and no longer bottling everything up, it can only be a good thing.

Summary: Getting Help

If you suffer from depression or extreme anxiety, it’s important to get help. It may feel like you’re all alone, but there is always someone who cares; there is always someone who can help. If you are having any thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. It is available 24/7 and is completely free—there is always someone waiting to help you, even if that just means lending an ear for a few minutes. As the above statistics show, depression is very common, and there are always people who have experienced the same issue and can help you through.

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