New Jersey’s Rate of Depression

More than 57,000 New Jersey residents suffer from long-lasting feelings of hopelessness and helplessness — a diagnosis known as major depression — and women are more than twice as likely as men to feel that way, according to the state’s largest insurer.

Claims made to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey show that 3.5 percent of the privately insured population below age 65 has been diagnosed with the psychological condition, compared to 4.4 percent nationally.

“We know this is true,” said Debra Wentz, president and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies. “Depression is the single strongest risk factor for suicidal behavior.”

Although progress has been made in treating depression with medication and psychotherapy, she said, most people diagnosed “remain untreated or experience significant delays” in receiving treatment.

Successfully treating depression and other behavioral health problems is as important as managing chronic medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease, Horizon’s director of behavioral health solutions, Suzanne Kunis, said. “It is also directly linked to a person’s overall health.”

In New Jersey, major events such as the 9/11 attacks, Superstorm Sandy and the 2008 recession all had an impact on residents’ mental health, Wentz said. Seeking care for depression has been “normalized,” she said, and some of the stigma and discrimination experienced by patients in the past has receded. But there is a shortage of mental-health professionals, she added.

Only hypertension has a greater impact on Americans’ health, the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said, estimating that 9 million commercially insured people nationwide suffer from major depression.

Everyone feels sad or blue at some point, but major depression refers to a loss of interest in normal activities or relationships every day for at least two weeks. Some people may experience this once in their lives, while for others it is a recurring condition.

For women, post-partum depression may occur after the birth of a baby. Others experience seasonal depressions. Undiagnosed depression among the elderly is a big concern.

Diagnoses have been increasing for all age groups, but are rising fastest for adolescents and millenials, the national report said.  New Jersey data on different age groups were not available.

(This article originally appeared in north jersey.com click here for the full post and more statistics)

Lindy Washburn for the Bergen Record, May 11, 2018