Year of Publication



Public Health

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Dr. Tina Studts

Committee Member

Dr. Robin Vanderpool

Committee Member

Dr. Mark Swanson


Depression and Suicide

Mental health is a determining factor in how individuals function throughout their daily lives, encompassing an individual’s physical, emotional, and social well-being (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013). Mental illnesses such as depression, hinder daily functioning and lead to a range of negative outcomes. These include increased risk of mortality from suicide, chronic diseases such as heart disease, other conditions/behaviors such as anxiety and substance use disorders, and high economic burden (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016b). Depression is a major contributor to disability and burden of disease in the U.S., contributing to 3.7% of all U.S. disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and 8.3% of all U.S. years lived with disability (YLDs) (Murray et al., 2013). Approximately 16.1 million U.S. adults experienced a major depressive episode in 2015 (SAMHSA, 2016).

The prevalence of depression varies among sociodemographic groups in the U.S. (SAMHSA, 2016). For example, women are more likely to experience depression than men, with nearly double the prevalence in 2015 (8.5% vs. 4.7%) (SAMHSA, 2016). Among racial and ethnic groups, the prevalence of depression is highest among those who self-identify as multi-racial (12.2%), followed by American Indians/Alaska Natives (8.9%), Whites (7.5%), Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders (5.2%), Blacks (4.9%), Hispanics (4.8%), and Asians (4.1%) (SAMHSA, 2016). Lastly, the prevalence of depression is highest among adults ages 18-25 (10.3%), followed by those ages 26-49 (7.5%) and those ages 50+ (4.8%) (SAMHSA, 2016).

The risk of mortality from suicide is significantly increased among individuals with depression. According to the CDC, between 1999-2016, suicide rates have increased among all U.S. sociodemographic groups of adults (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). In 2016, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages but the 2nd leading cause of death among individuals aged 10 to 34 (CDC, 2016b). Additionally, suicide related deaths have resulted in large amounts of economic burden for the U.S., due to medical and work loss costs (Florence, Simon, Haegerich, Luo, & Zhou, 2015).

Despite increasing prevalence of depression and incidence of suicide, the utilization of mental health treatment services by U.S. adults with any mental illness has increased only slightly over the past decade, from 57.9% in 2008 to 59.2% in 2015 (SAMHSA, 2016). Utilization of mental health treatment services varies among U.S. sociodemographic groups (SAMHSA, 2016). For example, 2015 data revealed that among adults with mental illness, more women (47.4%) than men (36.3%) used mental health services (SAMHSA, 2016). The utilization rate was highest among White adults with mental illness (48%), followed by those self-describing as multiracial (46.1%), Hispanic (31.5%), Black (31.4%), and Asian (22.1%) (SAMHSA, 2016). Lastly, adult ages 50+ ages have the highest utilization rate (48.3%), followed by those ages 26-49 (43.3%) and those ages 18-25 (32%) (SAMHSA, 2016).

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Public Health Commons