Study Shows Strong Surge in Major Depression Diagnoses

Major depression is a complex condition that has a vast impact on overall health and wellness. It is critical to effectively screen, diagnose, treat, and manage this condition when it begins in order to improve health, according to a new study.

The report, “Major Depression: The Impact on Overall Health,” based on medical claims data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index, is a collaboration between the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBS) and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses claims data from Blue plans across the country. The data set includes a deep pool of integrated medical and pharmacy claims, reflecting medical utilization in every ZIP code. It shows how major depression diagnoses are linked to other chronic health conditions.

The BCBS Health Index, which was refreshed in March, shows that major depression is the second most impactful health condition despite relatively low prevalence compared to other top conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and diabetes. It shows the toll this condition takes on people who are diagnosed with it. Often people with major depression suffer from other conditions.

This was the twentieth study of the “Blue Cross Blue Shield: Health of America report Series,” which aims to uncover key healthcare trends, including affordability and access to care.

The report found:

Major depression has a diagnosis rate of 4.4% for BCBS members. Diagnosis rates rose by 33% from 2013 through 2016 and climbed fastest among adolescents (up 63%) and millennials (up 47%).
Women are diagnosed with major depression at twice the rate of men (6% and 3%, respectively).
Members diagnosed with major depression are nearly 30% less healthy on average than those not diagnosed with major depression, according to BCBS Health Index measurement. Chronic physical conditions and major depression are interrelated, as 85% of people who are diagnosed with major depression also have one or more serious chronic health conditions. Nearly 30% of these members have four or more other health conditions.

Other unique findings

Members diagnosed with major depression use healthcare services more than those without a depression diagnosis. This results in two times the health care spending (about $10,673 compared to $4,283).
Diagnosis rates vary by as much at 300% by state from a high of 6.4% in Rhode Island to lows of 2.1% in Hawaii and 3.2% in Nevada in 2016. By city, diagnosis rates range from a high of 6.8% in Topeka, Kansas, to lows of 1.5% in Laredo, Texas, and 2% in McAllen/Edinburg/Mission, Texas.
“Screening, prevention and treatment options for major depression should be openly discussed as a way to help de-stigmatize it,” says Ginny Calega, vice president for medical management and policy, Independence Blue Cross.

Calega offers these three recommendations to healthcare executives:

Since the rates of depression are rising in young adults and millennials, parents should be encouraged to schedule and make sure their children get their annual check-ups and are screened for depression, if there is a concern.
Individuals should schedule and make sure they attend their yearly checkups and seek additional care if needed. It is important for people to get the care they need as quickly as possible.
Anyone with a chronic condition, such as heart disease or diabetes, should be aware about the strong link to major depression as a comorbidity and discuss with their provider available screening and possible treatment options should they be at risk.

Related Posts

  • 30
    During the past decade, the US health care system has gone digital. In 2008, fewer than 1 in 10 US hospitals had an electronic health record (EHR) system; today, fewer than 1 in 10 does not. The increase in use of an EHR system in ambulatory practices has been similarly…
    Tags: health