Study: Depression in young women common and undertreated
According to a recent study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, nearly 5% of non-pregnant women of childbearing age experience major depression. In addition, antidepressants are used by one-third of those with major depression and one-fifth of those with minor depression.
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2007-2014, the researchers performed a cross-sectional study of 3,705 non-pregnant women aged 20 to 44. Women who were pregnant or had given birth in the past 12 months were excluded from the study. The primary outcome was prevalence of major depression, while the secondary outcomes were prevalence of minor depression, antidepressant usage rates, and identification of predictors of major and minor depression. The researchers distinguished between major and minor depression using responses to the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Major depression in participants was classified as having five or more depressive symptoms more than half the days in the past 2 weeks, while minor depression involved fewer than five symptoms over the same period of time.
The researchers found that the overall prevalence of major and minor depression was 4.8% (95% CI 4.0—5.7%) and 4.3% (95% CI 3.5—5.2%), respectively. Among women with major and minor depression, prevalence of use of antidepressants was 32.4% (95% CI 25.3—40.4%) and 20.0% (95% CI 12.9—29.7%), respectively. Factors that were most strongly associated with major depression were government insurance (adjusted relative risk [RR] ratio 2.49, 95% CI 1.45—3.96) and hypertension (adjusted RR 2.09, 95% CI 1.25—3.50). For minor depression, having a highest education level less than high school (adjusted RR 4.34, 95% CI 2.09—9.01) or high school (adjusted RR 2.92, 95% CI 1.35—6.31) were the factors with the greatest association.
The researchers believe their findings are noteworthy since they illustrate the lack of adequate treatment for depression in women of childbearing age. They believe that raising awareness of the issue could help physicians develop a treatment plan for those at risk, especially before pregnancy, a time when the impact and rates of depression increase. The authors noted that the associations between education levels and government insurance and depression are just that— associations, not risk factors, and more research is needed.