Published On: Fri, May 28th, 2021

Depression in Elementary Age Children: An Alarming Rise

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by Contributing Author

Depression is often seen in the context of adults who might struggle in college, or experience issues in parenthood. Although depression may be most frequently associated with adults who are struggling, depression is actually not terribly uncommon in children and teenagers. Prior to the past 5-10 years, depression was certainly seen in children, but it was far from common. Recently, however, statistics regarding childhood depression have begun to change, and estimates suggest that as much as 3% of the childhood population qualifies for a depression diagnosis.

What Is Depression?

Depression is often used in place of “extremely sad,” but the two are actually quite different. Depression is a mental health condition characterized by persistent periods of sadness, moodiness, rage, or apathy. Depression causes significant impairments to daily function. Although onset is usually associated with adulthood, this is not always the case; increasingly, depression is being seen in children as young as elementary age.

The way that depression presents in childhood might differ from the way depression presents in adulthood. Although adults can often get an idea of what their symptoms mean from self investigation, using sites like Mind Diagnostics, children may not be quite as easy to read. Rather than showing classic symptoms of depression, children may exhibit changes to their mental health by becoming less interested in the activities they used to love.

Why Is Depression On the Rise?

The reason for depression rates rising is not identified as a single issue, but is instead considered a compounding number of issues facing children today. Although there are plenty of medical interventions and lifestyle expectations that have improved upon the lives children can expect to lead, there are also a host of issues that come along with the way modern life has progressed, leading to issues children have  What are these issues?

Increased Pressure

Children today have been targeted far more and far younger by advertisers, educators, and more. Children are inundated with plenty of reasons why they are not good enough, or are not doing enough from the time they are extremely young. From teachers and test scores to children’s programming that reinforces stereotypes and blasts continual beauty and body norms, children are not given the same time and ability to live and be as they were previously.

Increased Busyness

Children are busier today than ever before. Between school, after school programs, additional lessons, sports, and more, children are constantly encouraged to be on the go, while foregoing connection and play—two things that have been linked to anxiety and depression. Children are experiencing far more anxiety in addition to experiencing far more depression, perhaps in part due to the amount of time they are pushed to devote to learning, activities, and performing.

Social Media Exposure and Use

Social media exposure and use has been linked to increased rates of anxiety and depression, and children as young as 5 or 6 are using social media. Social media use on its own is not linked to depression or anxiety, as people who create strong boundaries around their social media use may not experience adverse effects. Children do not typically have the wisdom and wherewithal to limit social media, and even small bits of exposure to social media and its corresponding mores may prove problematic for young minds and emotions.

Co-Morbid Conditions

Children who have learning disabilities and other conditions may also be at increased risk of developing a depressive disorder. Just as chronic illness among children and other conditions are on the rise, depression is also on the rise. Co-morbid conditions are extensive, and can include diagnosed conditions and behavioral issues that might not come along with a dedicated diagnosis.

Depression is rarely a condition that develops in a vacuum. It is far more likely that depression may be accompanied by another condition, whether that condition is a physical ailment, developmental ailment, or an additional mental health issue. The rise of health issues as a whole are worrisome, but the rise of depression and other mental health issues in childhood has created a spike of concern among developmental therapists and child health advocates, and a multi-pronged approach to treatment is typically considered the best course of action.

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