Adolescents Who Felt Sad or Hopeless

Publication Date:

Aug 23, 2016


30_fig1The prevalence of “sad or hopeless” feelings as defined here remained steady between 1999 and 2007, staying between 28 and 29 percent. However, between 2007 and 2009, the proportion decreased, from 29 to 26 percent. Most of this decline reflected a lower prevalence of “sad or hopeless” feelings among males. Then, between 2009 and 2015, the prevalence of these feelings increased, from 26 to 30 percent. This rise was driven mainly by an increase among female teens. (Figure 1)

Differences by Gender

30_fig2Girls are more likely than boys to report feeling sad or hopeless. In 2015, two-fifths of girls reported having been sad or hopeless, while only one-fifth of boys reported having felt the same way. (Figure 1) Rates were highest among Hispanic female students (47 percent). (Figure 2)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin*

Hispanic youth are more likely than white or black youth to report feeling sad or hopeless for extended periods of time (35, versus 29 and 25 percent, respectively, in 2015). (Figure 2)

*Hispanics may be any race. Estimates for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.

Differences by Grade

In 2015, twelfth-grade boys were significantly more likely to report having felt sad or hopeless than ninth-grade boys (24 versus 17 percent), while ninth-grade girls were more likely to report having felt sad or hopeless than twelfth-grade girls (42 versus 36 percent). There were no significant difference by grade level overall. (Appendix 1)

Other Estimates

State and Local Estimates

2015 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) (Table 24).

2015 state-level data on the prevalence of major depressive episodes among youth ages 12-17 are available from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Table 26).

International Estimates

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

Data and Appendix

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). 1991-2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Available at

Raw Data Source

Youth Risk Behavior Survey




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?”

Students from Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota were not included in the survey in any year. Additionally, students from Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin were not included in the 2015 survey.

Suggested Citation

Child Trends Databank. (2016). Adolescents who felt sad or hopeless. Available at: