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Teenage Depression - Effects, Signs and Symptoms

Annual Testing Urged

An estimated 6% of American teenagers (nearly two million) suffer from clinical depression (major depressive disorder or MDD).


  • Decreased school performance
  • Poor social functioning
  • Early pregnancy
  • Increased physical illness
  • Substance abuse

Depressed adolescents:

  • Have more psychiatric and medical hospitalizations than adolescents who are not depressed
  • Increased health care costs (including general medical care and mental health care) compared to those without mental health diagnoses
  • Are at increased risk of suicide, which is the third leading cause of death among those aged 5 to 14 years
  • Are at increased risk of MDD in early adulthood.

Signs and symptoms

MDD may be present when following signs and symptoms cluster together and persist for 2 weeks or more:

  • persistent sadness
  • discouragement
  • loss of self-worth
  • loss of interest in usual activities (like sports)
  • social isolation
  • decline in school work
  • anger
  • sleep and appetite disturbances
  • nonspecific pain

A government-appointed medical panel recently recommended routine, yearly screening on all American teenagers for depression, even if they don't show symptoms. Studies show that your child's pediatrician can accurately diagnose MDD through questionnaires such as the Patient Health Questionnaire for Adolescents or the Beck Depression Inventory - Primary Care Version.

The recommendations by the United States Preventive Services Task Force appear in the April 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics.