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Rates of depression and anxiety in young adults continue to rise

Young man sitting on a couch hunched over.jpg
Gadiel Lazcano

Rates of depression and anxiety, particularly in young adults, have risen significantly in the past 8 years. While these rates started increasing before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it contributed to rising rates through social isolation particularly in underserved and marginalized groups that often don’t have access to resources as readily.

Dr. Anne Marie Albano is a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University, who has worked on a number of studies seeking to understand and treat depression and anxiety in young people.

“When it comes to young adults, from 2015, we have seen this significant steady increase of depression with impairment in the young adult population. And, most of these people who need help are not receiving any form of help for it,” Albano said.

So not only are these rates increasing but there is also a lack of treatment. Barriers to getting treatment include cost, stigmas toward treatment of mental illness and a lack of understanding of challenges faced by young adults within the healthcare fields. Approaches to these treatments must also now account for changes in communication and technology that have vastly changed the challenges presented to kids and young adults today.

Associate professor at the State University of New York Stony Brook School of Social Welfare, Dr. Melissa Bessaha shares more on the obstacles.

“So leading reason of costs and lack of adequate insurance was a reason for avoiding treatment and not feeling that they can really afford this. That's the treatment that they want and I'm feeling that they may not have access to the support that they need,” said Bessaha.

A major positive outcome of mental health treatment during the pandemic has been an increase in telehealth services and support which has continued to persist and provide more accessible treatment.

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Erin Lewis is a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a PhD Candidate in the biology department at Utah State University. She is passionate about fostering curiosity and communicating science to the public. At USU she studies how anthropogenic disturbances are impacting wildlife, particularly the effects of tourism-induced dietary shifts in endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana populations. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting and getting outside with her dog, Hazel.