LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A survey conducted by LA County's Department of Public Health finds nearly 14 percent of adults surveyed said they had been diagnosed with depression, up from about 9 percent in 1999.
"The increase in rates of diagnosed depressive disorders may reflect better recognition and reporting of the disorder, rather than an actual increase in the frequency of depression," according to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the county Department of Public Health.
"However, from any perspective, depression takes a large toll in terms of disease burden, and is
the most common mental health problem."
The numbers in the report -- titled "Trends in Depression: Shedding Light on the Darkness" -- reflect the number of adults who have been diagnosed with depression at any point in time, whether or not they are currently suffering.
Depression is a major cause of disability, economic losses and suicide, health officials said.
Other report findings include:
-- Women in L.A. County consistently reported higher rates of depression and a more significant increase in cases than men.
-- Rates were up in all racial and ethnic groups, but Asians and Pacific Islanders reported the lowest numbers, which may suggest under-recognition of depression or other cultural variations.
-- Depression often co-occurs with other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and is sometimes associated with risky behaviors like heavy drinking and cigarette smoking.
"We need to ensure that those suffering from depression get diagnosed early and receive timely care," Fielding said.
The report suggests ways that elected officials, employers, health care providers, families and friends can help those suffering from depression, including:
-- making mental health care services available with an eye toward cultural sensitivities;
-- promoting a stigma-free work environment and providing education about depression to employees;
-- advocating for treatment and insurance reimbursement; and
-- providing emotional support, understanding and patience, and
encouraging depressed individuals to seek immediate medical care.
If a loved one talks about suicide, do not leave the individual alone, the report recommends. Help that person get care from a mental health or medical professional.
Information about free and low-cost services can be found by clicking on the following: http://dmh.lacounty.gov.
(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)
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