Up to a third of Americans in some parts of the country suffer from depression, according to shocking official data exposing the US mental health crisis.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released last week, one in five adults say they have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.
The new data, as of 2020, is up from less than one in 10 in 2016.
At the county level, the rates are even higher, with nearly one in three in West Virginia counties of Logan, McDowell, Lincoln, and Wyoming saying they have been diagnosed with depression at some point.
Mental health problems have been worsening for decades, linked to unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and increasing loneliness – as well as reduced stigma.
Although the data is from 2020, depression rates are believed to have worsened during Covid due to lockdowns, the loss of loved ones and an increase in isolation and anxiety.
The top 20 most depressed counties are in some of the poorest, unhealthiest, and most obese states.
The percentage of adults who said they had been diagnosed with depression during their lifetime
20 Most Depressed Counties in America
- Logan, West Virginia (31.9)
- McDowell, West Virginia (31.6)
- Lincoln, West Virginia (31.1)
- Wyoming, West Virginia (31.0)
- Cowlitz, Washington (30.9)
- Wolfe, KY (30.7)
- Webster, West Virginia (30.3)
- Mingo, West Virginia (30.1)
- Wirt, West Virginia (29.9)
- Clay, West Virginia (29.8)
- Harlan, Kentucky (29.7)
- Hancock, Tennessee (29.7)
- Scott, Tennessee (29.7)
- Grays Harbor, Washington (29.7)
- Fayette, West Virginia (29.7)
- Kanawha, West Virginia (29.4)
- Mason, West Virginia (29.4)
- Marion, Tennessee (29.3)
- Cabell, West Virginia (29.3)
- Roane, West Virginia (29.3)
20 Least Depressed Counties in America
- Kalawao, Hawaii (10.7)
- Aleutian Islands East, Alaska (10.7)
- Aleutian Islands West, Alaska (11.3)
- Prince George’s, Maryland (12.5)
- Santa Clara, California (12.6)
- San Mateo, California (13.6)
- Alameda, California (13.6)
- Honolulu, Hawaii (13.8)
- Middlesex, New Jersey (13.9)
- San Francisco (14.0)
- DuPage, Illinois (14.2)
- Kodiak Island, Alaska (14.2)
- Cook, Illinois (14.4)
- Lake, Illinois (14.6)
- Nassau, New York (14.7)
- Howard, Maryland (14.8)
- Marshall, South Dakota (14.9)
- Bon Homme, South Dakota (14.9)
- Dakota, Nebraska (14.9)
- Montgomery, Maryland (14.9)
The CDC report found that rates ranged from 12.7 percent in Hawaii to 27.5 percent in West Virginia in 2020.
County-level estimates show that Logan, McDowell, Lincoln and Wyoming in West Virginia are the most depressed, with about one in three residents suffering from the debilitating condition.
The least depressed county is Kalawao in Hawaii, where less than one in 11 people are depressed, followed by Aleutians West and Aleutians East in Alaska. LOWER
It comes as prominent figures such as Dwayne Johnson and Senator John Fetterman have spoken out about their struggle.
Researchers believe depression is higher in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Washington counties because of the prevalence of other chronic illnesses, such as diabetesand other social factors, including poverty.
West Virginia and Kentucky have the highest rates of obesity in the country. West Virginia is also one of the poorest states in the country.
“There was significant geographic variation in the prevalence of depression, with the highest state and county estimates of depression observed along the Appalachian and southern Mississippi Valley regions,” researchers wrote in the report.
The researchers said they hoped the new data would “help decision makers allocate resources to areas where the need is greatest.”
The study was compiled using data from nearly 400,000 adults in the 50 states.
In Cowlitz, Washington, nearly a third of respondents said they had been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.
Similarly, more than 30 percent of those surveyed in Wolfe, Kentucky, reported a lifetime depression diagnosis.
The least depressed counties are Kalawao in Hawaii, where fewer than one in 11 people have been diagnosed.
Aleutians East in Alaska is equally happy, followed by Aleutians West and Prince George’s in Maryland.
It may come as no surprise that picturesque Hawaii is at the bottom of the list of depression rates.
Very few Hawaiians are obese or smoke – a recipe for good health.
Past polls have also shown that Alaskans are less obese, have a healthier sense of purpose, less financial stress, and better physical health than residents of nearly every other state.
Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda in California also have depression rates between 12.6 and 13.6.
Nicknamed “the Gold State,” Californians have good job prospects, increased wealth, and good physical and mental health, leading to an overall high quality of life.
Lake, Cook, and DuPage in Illinois are also among the top 20 least depressed states.
Previous research found that the state ranks highly in personal finance, leisure, employment, and physical and mental health.
The CDC researchers suggested that the geographic variation may be partly explained by the prevalence of other chronic diseases.
Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease, are found in high concentrations in the Appalachians, where depression is also common.
They argue that depression is a comorbidity for these illnesses; therefore, high levels of depression are linked to their presence in the region.
Other social factors have also been cited as an explanation for high levels of depression.
Adults in the Appalachians tend to have lower incomes, higher poverty rates and lower levels of education, all of which can negatively impact health and well-being, according to the study.
The results also showed that levels of depression were higher in women, younger adults and adults with lower levels of education.
About 24 percent of women, compared to only 13 percent of men, reported experiencing depression.
The statistics were also higher among adults with less than a high school education, 21 percent, compared to adults with a high school education or equivalent, 18.5 percent. Those with college degrees fared best, with 15.4 percent reporting a diagnosis.
Other recent reports have shown a jump in Americans reporting lifetime depression diagnoses in recent years.
Gallup reported in May that 29 percent of Americans had been diagnosed with depression at some point, which was nearly 10 percent more than in 2015.
“The fact that Americans are more depressed and having a harder time after this time of incredible stress and isolation is perhaps not surprising,” said Dr. Rebecca Brendel, president of the American Psychiatric Association.
“There are lingering effects on our health, especially our mental health, from the past three years that have distorted everything we knew,” added Dr. Brendel, who was not involved in the CDC study.
Mental health took an undeniable blow during the Covid pandemic. Depression rates have risen since 2015, but have seen a sharper upward trend in recent years.
The pandemic hit many young adults at a critical point in their development, putting them at greater risk for depression due to social isolation, loneliness and fear of infection.
Drug use increased by 16 percent and alcohol use by 23 percent suicide rates have skyrocketedwith CDC data suggesting one in 10 teens will attempt suicide by 2021.
Increased substance abuse also played a role, as did mental health care abandonment due to the temporary or permanent closure of facilities.
Experts also say awareness around mental health has grown and become less stigmatized, leading to more diagnoses and a positive change.
Mr Johnson said he struggled with his mental health and described how he struggled with depression after his college football career ended and later after his divorce from Ms Garcia.
He said this time he was able to identify his depression and “lean” on friends.
The wrestling legend turned actor previously spoke out about his secret battle with depression that left him “devastated and constantly crying,” a month after revealing he witnessed his mother attempt suicide when he was 15.
And Senator John Fetterman said depression “almost ruined me” and he avoided a potentially “tragic” outcome by staying in the hospital for six weeks.
The Pennsylvania Democrat said his crippling diagnosis of depression had left him bedridden.
Mr. Fetterman, 53, said he was ‘not getting out of bed, not eating, losing weight, not doing the things I love most in my life’.
He checked into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Feb. 15 after weeks of what aides described as Fetterman, withdrawn and uninterested in eating, discussing work or participating in chit-chat with staff.
Mr. Fetterman had been on duty for barely a month, following his defeat of Dr. Oz in Washington and recovering from the aftereffects of the stroke he suffered last May when, on the advice of Capitol physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, he went to Walter Reed went.
Post-stroke depression is common and treatable with medication and talk therapy, doctors say.