TUESDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- Rates of major depression skyrocket among young girls as they move through the already vulnerable period of adolescence.
According to new research, about 5 percent of 12-year-old girls experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, compared with 15 percent of 15-year-old girls, a threefold increase.
Some 1.4 million girls aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.
The information "is important for both prevention and treatment," said Richard McKeon, chief of the suicide prevention branch at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the government agency that released the report last week.
"Girls are experiencing major depressive episodes early, around the time of puberty, and this really points to the need for treatment," added Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of the division of adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
The report, based on a large national survey conducted annually to assess drug use and mental health, found that girls aged 12 to 17 were at triple the risk of experiencing a major depressive episode when compared to boys (12 percent vs. 4.5 percent).
It's unclear why these gender disparities exist, but they're probably due to multiple factors including biological vulnerability and, perhaps, the higher rates of sexual abuse among girls, Miller said.
"It's likely a number of different factors, including psychological, biological and social factors that may all contribute to some degree," McKeon said. "It is a time of great transition, a time of biological transition, a time of social change, so there are likely a number of different reasons."
And adolescent boys do experience depression, although not "at the same rate as adolescent girls," McKeon pointed out.
The report also revealed disparities in treatmen
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