Adults feel sad, blue, or depressed about 3 days a month

U.S. adults spent an average of three days a month feeling “sad, blue, or depressed”, during 1995-2000, according to a study published today in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes.

“People who reported a higher number of sad, blue or depressed days also reported engaging in unhealthy behaviours such as cigarette smoking and physical inactivity,” write the authors of the study. “Although most people who report depressive symptoms several days each month probably do not have a diagnosable mental disorder, those above a certain threshold of sad, blue or depressed days might be at increased risk for mental and physical illnesses,” they say.

Rosemarie Kobau and her colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta analysed 166,000 responses to the question “During the past 30 days, for about how many days have you felt sad, blue, or depressed?” that was asked in an annual telephone survey of the American adult population in 38 states.

Women reported more days with depressive symptoms than men (3.5 days compared to 2.4 days). Young adults aged 18-24 years reported the highest number of days with depressive symptoms. People who exercised had 1.3 fewer days with depressive symptoms compared to those who did not exercise, and those who never smoked cigarettes had 2.4 fewer days of depressive symptoms compared to those who smoked more than 1 pack of cigarettes a day.

More education or a higher household income tended to reduce depressive symptoms. College graduates and those with household incomes over USD50,000 experienced two sad, blue, or depressed days out of every thirty, compared with almost five days for those without a high school education and 6.1 days for those with household incomes of less than USD15,000 People who said they were unable to work experienced the highest number of “sad, blue or depressed days” (10.2 days).

The researchers concluded that, “findings from this study highlight the relationship between feeling sad, blue or depressed and engaging in behaviours risky to health.”

They stress that, “Interventions that focus on positive emotions associated with healthful behaviour and that instill confidence in adopting health-promoting behaviour might be effective for individuals with depressive symptoms. Use of these measures along with other community health indicators can help to assess the burden of mental distress in populations and monitor changes in levels of mental distress over time.”

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Gemma Bradley BioMed Central

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