Adolescents Who Felt Sad or Hopeless

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In 2011, over one-quarter (29 percent) of students in grades nine through 12 reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for an extended period (two or more weeks in a row) in the last year.

Importance

Persistent sadness and hopelessness are criteria for and predictors of clinical depression, though by themselves they are insufficient for a diagnosis of depression.[1],[2] Youth who are depressed are at a higher risk for poor health outcomes as adults.[3]

In addition, depression in early adolescence is linked with increased risks for negative effects on growth and development, school performance, and peer/family relationships in later adolescence. Depressed youth are also much more likely to use drugs or alcohol, drop out of school, or engage in promiscuous sex than a young person who is not depressed.[4] Feelings of sadness or loneliness not only affect teens but those around them, often causing problems in relationships with peers and family members.[5]

Although they likely underestimate the actual prevalence of depression, the available data indicate that about eight percent of youth ages 12-17 in 2009 had a major depressive episode during the past year. Only a minority (35 percent) of these youth received treatment.[6]

Trends

30_fig1The prevalence of "sad or hopeless" feelings as defined here has not changed significantly between 1999 and 2011. (Figure 1)

Differences by Gender

30_fig2Girls are more likely than boys to report feeling sad or hopeless. In 2011, more than one-third of girls reported having been sad or hopeless (36 percent), while closer to one-fifth of boys reported having felt the same way (22 percent). Rates were highest among Hispanic female students (41 percent). (Figure 2)

 

 

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[7]

Hispanic youth are more likely than white or black youth to report feeling sad or hopeless for extended periods of time (33 versus 27 and 25 percent, respectively, in 2011). However, this comparison was only significant among female students, not among males. (Figure 2) The disparity between Hispanics and other groups has been diminishing over time. The gap between Hispanics and whites was 12 percentage points in 1999, and was five percentage points in 2011. (Figure 1)

Differences by Grade

Twelfth-grade boys were significantly more likely to report having felt sad or hopeless than ninth-grade boys (18 versus 24 percent). There were no significant differences by grade level overall or among females. (Appendix 1)

State and Local Estimates

2011 estimates of feeling sad or hopeless among high school students (Grades 9-12) are available for select states and cities from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

2007-2008 state-level data (grouped by quintiles) are available from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

International Estimates

International estimates (1997-1998) are available from the World Health Organization. (See Figure 3.1)

National Goals

Through its Healthy People 2020 initiative, the Federal government has set a goal to reduce the proportion of adolescents who experience a major depressive episode from 8.3 percent in 2008 to 7.4 percent in 2020. They have also set a goal to increase depression screening by primary care providers for adolescents from 2.1 percent of office visits in 2005-07 to 2.3 percent in 2020.

More information is available here.  (MHMD 4.1 and 11.2)

Additionally, Report of the Surgeon General's Conference on Children's Mental Health: A National Action Agenda lays out a number of national goals related to improving children's mental health. One goal, for example, is to improve the assessment and recognition of mental health needs in children.

Additional information is available here.

What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator

See Child Trends’ LINKS database (“Lifecourse Interventions to Nurture Kids Successfully”), for reviews of many rigorously evaluated programs, including the following which have been shown to be effective:

Also, see Child Trends' review, What Works to Prevent or Reduce Internalizing Problems or Social-Emotional Difficulties in Adolescents: Lessons From Experimental Evaluations of Social Interventions.

And, Zaff, JF, Calkins J, Bridges, LJ, and Margie, NG (2002). Promoting positive mental and emotional health in teens: Some lessons from research. Child Trends Research Brief.

Related Indicators

Definition

Survey participants were asked to respond to the following question:

"During the past 12 months, did you ever feel so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that you stopped doing some usual activities?"

Data Sources

Data for 2011: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 8, 2012). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2011. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 61(4): Table 21. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6104.pdf

Data for 2009: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 4, 2010). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2009. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 59(5): Table 20. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss5905.pdf

Data for 2007: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 6, 2008). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2007. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 57(4): Table 20. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss5704.pdf

Data for 2005: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 9, 2006). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2005. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 55(5): Table 16. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5505.pdf

Data for 2003: US Department of Health and Human Services. (May 21, 2004). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2003. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 53(2): Table 16. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5302.pdf

Data for 2001: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 28, 2002). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2001. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 51(4): Table 12. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5104.pdf

Data for 1999: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 9, 2000). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 1999. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 49(5): Table 12. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS4905.pdf

Raw Data Source

Youth Risk Behavior Survey

http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/index.htm

 

Appendix 1: Percentage of High School StudentsWho Report They Have Felt Sad or Hopeless2, Selected Years, 1999-2011

1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
All Students 28.3 28.3 28.6 28.5 28.5 26.1 28.5
Race/Ethnicity
Non-Hispanic White 24.9 26.5 26.2 25.8 26.2 23.7 27.2
Non-Hispanic Black 28.9 28.8 26.3 28.4 29.2 27.7 24.7
Hispanic 37.0 34.0 35.4 36.2 36.3 31.6 32.6
Grade
9 27.4 29.4 28.0 29.0 28.2 26.6 27.6
10 29.3 27.2 29.7 28.9 28.9 26.1 28.7
11 27.1 28.7 28.9 28.8 27.1 27.3 28.8
12 29.4 27.0 27.4 26.4 29.4 24.3 28.9
Male 21.0 21.6 21.9 20.4 21.2 19.1 21.5
Race/Ethnicity
Non-Hispanic White 19.0 20.5 19.6 18.4 17.8 17.2 20.7
Non-Hispanic Black 19.6 20.9 21.7 19.5 24.0 17.9 18.0
Hispanic 27.7 25.4 25.9 26.0 30.4 23.6 24.4
Grade
9 20.6 22.4 21.0 19.9 22.1 18.6 18.2
10 20.1 19.7 22.7 21.3 20.3 18.2 21.1
11 19.3 23.4 22.1 19.4 19.5 19.6 23.6
12 24.6 20.5 22.0 20.2 22.6 19.8 23.6
1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
Female 35.7 34.5 35.5 36.7 35.8 33.9 35.9
Race/Ethnicity
Non-Hispanic White 31.3 32.3 33.3 33.4 34.6 31.1 34.3
Non-Hispanic Black 37.7 36.3 30.8 36.9 34.5 37.5 31.4
Hispanic 46.1 42.3 44.9 46.7 42.3 39.7 41.4
Grade
9 34.3 35.7 35.7 38.5 34.8 35.8 37.4
10 38.4 34.6 36.9 37.0 37.7 34.7 37.2
11 35.3 33.9 35.9 38.0 34.5 35.5 34.3
12 34.3 33.2 32.6 32.6 35.9 28.9 34.4
1Estimates do not include youth who dropped out of school and therefore may not reflect total national values2Felt so sad almost every day for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities, in the past year.Sources:Data for 2011: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 8, 2012). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2011. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 61(4): Table 21. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6104.pdf Data for 2009: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 4, 2010). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2009. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 59(5): Table 20. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss5905.pdf Data for 2007: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 6, 2008). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2007. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 57(4): Table 20. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss5704.pdf Data for 2005: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 9, 2006). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2005. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 55(5): Table 16. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5505.pdf Data for 2003: US Department of Health and Human Services. (May 21, 2004). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2003. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 53(2): Table 16. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5302.pdf Data for 2001: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 28, 2002). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 2001. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 51(4): Table 12. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5104.pdf Data for 1999: US Department of Health and Human Services. (June 9, 2000). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States 1999. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 49(5): Table 12. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS4905.pdf

 

Endnotes


[1]Harter, S. & Whitesell, N.R. (1996). Multiple pathways to self-reported depression and psychological adjustment among adolescents. Development and Psychopathology, 8: 761-777;

Joiner, T.E. & Wagner, K.D. (1995). Attribution style and depression in children and adolescents: a meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 15: 777-798;

Young, M.A., Fogg, L.F., Scheftner, W., Fawcett, J., Akiskal, H., & Maser, J. (1996). Stable trait components of hopelessness: Baseline and sensitivity to depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105: 155-165.

[2]Surgeon General. (1999). Children and mental health. Chapter 3 in Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Washington, D.C.: U.S.GPO. Available at:http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter3/sec1.html

[3]Keenan-Miller, D., Hammen, C. L., and Brennan, P. A. (2007). Health outcomes related to early adolescent depression. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41, 256-262.

[4]National Mental Health Association. (2006). NMHA MHIC factsheet: Adolescent depression- helping depressed teens. Available at: http://archive.is/burzI

[5]Brent, D.A., Birmaher, B. (2002). Adolescent depression. The New England Journal of Medicine, 347(9): 667-671.

[6]Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2011). Major depressive episode and treatment among adolescents: 2009.The NSDUH Report. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality: Rockville, MD.

[7]Hispanics may be any race. Estimates for whites and blacks do not include Hispanics.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends. (2012). Adolescents who felt sad or hopeless. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=adolescents-who-felt-sad-or-hopeless

 

Last updated: July 2012