Skip to main content


Blue Cross Blue Shield Association study shows surge in major depression diagnoses

Major depression rising fastest among adolescents and millennials; Major depression among Independence members, particularly women, is lower than national average

Philadelphia, PAMajor depression diagnoses surged, especially among adolescents and millennials, from 2013 through 2016, according to a study of medical claims by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA)’s Health of America Report. Major depression has a diagnosis rate of 4.2 percent for Independence Blue Cross (Independence) members, compared with 4.4 percent for all Blue Cross® Blue Shield® (BCBS) members.

The report, titled Major Depression: The Impact on Overall Health, based on medical claims data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health IndexSM (BCBS Health Index℠), also shows how major depression diagnoses are linked to other chronic health conditions. The study finds that:

  • For all BCBS members, diagnosis rates rose by 33 percent from 2013 through 2016 and climbed fastest among adolescents (up 63 percent) and millennials (up 47 percent).
  • Diagnosis rates vary by as much at 300 percent by state from a high of 6.4 percent in Rhode Island to lows of 2.1 in Hawaii and 3.2 percent in Nevada in 2016. By city, diagnosis rates range more than 400 percent from a high of 6.8 percent in Topeka, Kansas, to lows of 1.5 percent in Laredo, Texas, and 2 percent in McAllen/Edinburg/Mission, Texas.
  • Women are diagnosed with major depression at double the rate of men (6 percent and 3 percent, respectively). For Independence members, the respective rates are 5.3 percent and 2.9 percent.
  • Those diagnosed with major depression are nearly 30 percent less healthy on average than those not diagnosed with major depression, according to the BCBS Health Index measurement. Chronic conditions are strongly linked to major depression, as 85 percent of people who are diagnosed with major depression also have one or more serious chronic health conditions. Nearly 30 percent of these members have four or more other health conditions.
  • Those diagnosed with major depression use health care services more than those without a depression diagnosis. This results in two times the health care spending (about $10,673 compared to $4,283).

“The increase in depression among adolescents and millennials is particularly concerning as this could have a significant health effect on this population in the years to come,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, chief medical officer for Independence Blue Cross. “We encourage parents to schedule and make sure their adolescent children get their annual checkups and be screened for depression, if there is a concern. It’s critical to get care and manage this condition to improve the quality of life and health now and in future years.”

The report is based on medical claims data from the BCBS Health Index, a first-of-its-kind measurement of health for nearly every county in America. It encompasses more than 200 conditions that impact health and identifies those health conditions with the greatest impact on the commercially insured population. The BCBS Health Index is powered by de-identified medical claims data from more than 41 million commercially insured members of BCBS companies. The interactive website allows people to measure the overall health and identify the top 10 conditions that negatively impact health at the state and county levels.

This is the twentieth study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report® series, a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into health care affordability and access to care.

For more information, visit

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health Indexsm. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out our blog.

Media contact:
Ruth Stoolman
215-241-4807 (office)
215-667-9537 (cell)