The Prevalence and Trend of Depression Among Veterans in the United States

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Background: Depression is a common psychiatric illness that is associated with high rates of mortality and morbidity. However, studies reporting the trends of depression among U.S. veterans are limited. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence and trend of depression among U.S. veterans and evaluate potential exploratory variables that may contribute. Methods: Data were from six cycles, 2005–2016, of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Veteran status of depression was self-reported using the Patient Health Questionnaire. Rao–Scott χ 2 test measured bivariate association of depression and exploratory variables (age, gender, race/ethnicity, poverty, and education). Cochran–Armitage trend test assessed depression prevalence time-trends from 2005 to 2016. Results: Over a two-week period, 16.3% of veterans spent at least half of the days feeling tired or having little energy. Also, over 15.0% of veterans reported having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much on more than half of the days (6.5%) or nearly every day (9.1%). The overall prevalence of depression among veterans peaked in 2011–2012 at 12.3%. Among female veterans, there is a general increasing prevalence of depression, escalating from 9.0% in the 2007–2008 cycle to 14.8% in the 2015–2016 cycle. White veterans consistently had a higher prevalence of depression compared to Black and Hispanic veterans. Limitations: NHANES data were only able to assess noninstitutionalized individuals. Conclusions: Results indicate that disparities in prevalence of depression existed among U.S. veterans. Cost-effective strategies are needed to help prevent and treat depression among U.S. veterans.