Depression-Related Feelings (Student Reported), by Gender and Grade Level
Definition: Percentage of public school students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional students reporting whether in the past 12 months they had felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more that they stopped doing some usual activities, by gender (e.g., in 2011-2013, 38.3% of female students in grade 9 in California public schools reported having depression-related feelings in the past year).
Footnote: The 2011-2013 time period reflects data from school years 2011-12 and
2012-13. District- and county-level figures are weighted proportions
from the 2011-13 California Healthy Kids Survey, and state-level figures
are weighted proportions from the 2011-13 California Student Survey.
The grade levels included in school district data depend on the grades
offered in each district; for example, high school districts do not
include 7th grade data. "Non-Traditional" students are those enrolled in
Community Day Schools or Continuation Education; according to Ed-Data,
these schools make up about 10% of all public schools in California.
N/A indicates that the survey was not administered in that period or
that data are not available for that group. LNE (Low Number Event)
indicates that for a specific answer there were fewer than 25
respondents. N/R indicates that the sample is too small to be
Learn More About Children's Emotional Health
Measures of Children's Emotional Health on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, indicators of “depression-related feelings” (i.e., student reports of whether, in the past 12 months, they felt so sad or hopeless every day for two weeks or more that they stopped doing some usual activities), and emotional/mental health measures reported by school staff include:
Emotional health is an integral part of overall health, as physical and mental health are intricately linked (1, 2). Sound youth emotional health, which is more than the absence of disorders, includes effective coping skills and the ability to form positive relationships, to adapt in the face of challenges, and to function well at home, in school, and in life (1, 3). Positive emotional or mental health is critical to equipping young people for the challenges of growing up and living as healthy adults (1, 2).
Studies estimate that, each year, up to 1 in 5 U.S. children experience a mental disorder and about $247 billion is spent on children's mental health problems (1, 3). Unfortunately, the majority of youth who need mental health treatment do not receive it, and mental health problems in childhood often have effects into adulthood (1, 3, 4).
Depression is one of the most common emotional health problems among youth, with an estimated 11% of U.S. adolescents diagnosed with depression by age 18 (4). A recent study found that depression accounted for 44% of all pediatric mental health hospital admissions, costing $1.33 billion (5). In 2016, 30% of high school students nationwide reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness—one indicator of depression (6). Youth with depression are more likely to engage in suicidal behavior, drop out of school, use alcohol or drugs, and have unsafe sexual activity, in addition to having difficulties with school and relationships (4, 6).
For more information on emotional health, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
4. Avenevoli, S., et al. (2015). Major depression in the National Comorbidity Survey—Adolescent Supplement: Prevalence, correlates, and treatment. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 54(1), 37-44.e2. Retrieved from: http://www.jaacap.com/article/S0890-8567(14)00732-1/
In California, 25% of 7th graders, 31% of 9th graders, and 33% of 11th graders reported that, in the past year, they had been so sad or hopeless every day for at least two weeks that they stopped doing some usual activities, according to 2011-13 data. Non-traditional students (i.e., those enrolled in Community Day Schools or Continuation Education) had the highest percentages reporting depression-related feelings in the past year: 38% in 2011-13. Greater percentages of females in 7th, 9th, and 11th grades, and in non-traditional classes, report depression-related feelings than their male peers. In addition, students who report feeling less connected to their schools more often report depression-related feelings. Among racial/ethnic groups, the percentage reporting depression-related feelings ranged from 26% to 35% in 2011-13, with the highest percentages among Hispanic/Latino and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students.
In 2013-14, 21% of California youth ages 12-17 reported needing help for emotional or mental health problems, such as feeling sad, anxious, or nervous, up from 17% in 2005. Among those who reported needing help, approximately a third (35%) reported receiving counseling. According to 2011-12 parent reports, an estimated 63% of California children ages 2-17 who needed mental health treatment or counseling received services in the previous 12 months, with county-level estimates ranging from 53% to 67%.
In 2015, there were 13,211 hospitalizations for mental health issues among children ages 5-14 in California (a rate of 2.6 per 1,000) and 25,651 among youth ages 15-19 (9.7 per 1,000). The statewide rate of hospitalizations for mental health issues has fluctuated, but increased overall among children and youth between 2002 and 2015.
The vast majority of emotional health problems begin in adolescence and young adulthood, with half of all disorders starting by age 14 (1, 2). Screening, early identification, and treatment are critical, as untreated mental illness can disrupt children’s development, academic achievement, and their ability to lead healthy, productive lives (1, 2, 3). School and health care settings are natural places to identify early warning signs, though many primary care providers do not routinely screen youth for mental health issues, and teachers may lack the training or time to identify such issues and refer students for services (1, 3, 4). Even if mental health problems are identified, children often face challenges with stigma and access to services; in fact, most children who need mental health treatment do not receive it (1, 3).
Experts recommend promoting mental wellness in addition to preventing and treating mental illness (1, 5). Mental wellness is influenced by socioeconomic, biological, and environmental factors, and promoting positive emotional health requires coordinated, cross-sector strategies that address influences at both the individual and community levels (1, 5).
Policy options that could promote children's emotional health include:
Ensuring that mental health funding is aligned with what is known about the age of onset of disorders, populations at higher risk (e.g., children in poverty, LGBT youth, and children in foster care, among others), and effective services and strategies, which include increased integration and coordination among mental health services and other systems, such as health care, education, child welfare, and juvenile justice (1, 2, 3, 5)
Setting school policies that foster a positive, supportive environment and promote student engagement in school, and supporting comprehensive K-12 education for social-emotional learning, including communication skills, problem-solving skills, and stress management (1, 5, 6)
Ensuring adequate funding and training for a range of school staff to recognize signs of mental distress and refer students to services; such training also should focus on how to promote a safe and supportive environment for all students, including LGBT youth (1, 4, 7)
Promoting efforts in communities to provide youth with positive experiences, relationships, and opportunities, such as quality after-school programs and safe places to play and exercise (1, 8)
Promoting mental health training for medical residents and pediatricians, and expanding the workforce of qualified mental health professionals serving youth, including school counselors, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians (1, 3, 9)
Supporting efforts to promote parent mental health and positive parenting skills, including increased screening for parental depression (1)
Increasing access to high-quality early childhood education, especially for low-income children, and ensuring that early education staff are trained on social-emotional learning (1)
Supporting training and media campaigns to reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems and increase knowledge of warning signs; trainings could include “mental health first aid” for wide-ranging audiences, focusing on how to recognize early warning signs, provide non-professional support, and help youth access community resources (1, 9)