Depression passes asthma to become number one cause of disease burden for U.S. & Canadian adolescents

The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, published last week in The Lancet, examines the prevalence and causes of the major diseases, injuries and health risk factors that impact our mortality and quality of life. Among the study’s many findings are new data that indicate an upswing in the impact of mental and behavioral disorders among 10- to 14-year-olds in the United States and Canada, reports Nature Medicine

The researchers used a metric known as “years lived with disabilities,” to estimate how many healthy years of life are lost during a period of time within a population, because of a particular disorder. In 1990 youth living in the United States and Canada were most impacted by asthma; in 2010 the leading cause of disability burden became depression for this population. The collective number of “years lost to disability” for these youth went up by 30 percent.

Across all cohorts, the researchers found that 4 percent of the world’s population was affected by depression, and ranked it as the number two contributor to “years lived with disabilities” in 1990 and again in 2010. Anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in the United States and Canada, ranked 5, 10 and 18, respectively. 

“’When you are seeing more years lived with disability from depression and anxiety than you are from most injuries, chronic diseases and infectious diseases, then you need to start thinking about addressing them by borrowing from lessons we have learned from those other areas or by innovating new tools,’ [says Mohsen Naghavi, an author of the study and a health expert at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation].”