Epidemiology of Adult DSM-5 Major Depressive Disorder and Its Specifiers in the United States

Deborah S Hasin, Aaron L Sarvet, Jacquelyn L Meyers, Tulshi D Saha, W June Ruan, Malka Stohl, Bridget F Grant
JAMA Psychiatry 2018 April 1, 75 (4): 336-346

Importance: No US national data are available on the prevalence and correlates of DSM-5-defined major depressive disorder (MDD) or on MDD specifiers as defined in DSM-5.

Objective: To present current nationally representative findings on the prevalence, correlates, psychiatric comorbidity, functioning, and treatment of DSM-5 MDD and initial information on the prevalence, severity, and treatment of DSM-5 MDD severity, anxious/distressed specifier, and mixed-features specifier, as well as cases that would have been characterized as bereavement in DSM-IV.

Design, Setting, and Participants: In-person interviews with a representative sample of US noninstitutionalized civilian adults (≥18 years) (n = 36 309) who participated in the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III (NESARC-III). Data were collected from April 2012 to June 2013 and were analyzed in 2016-2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Prevalence of DSM-5 MDD and the DSM-5 specifiers. Odds ratios (ORs), adjusted ORs (aORs), and 95% CIs indicated associations with demographic characteristics and other psychiatric disorders.

Results: Of the 36 309 adult participants in NESARC-III, 12-month and lifetime prevalences of MDD were 10.4% and 20.6%, respectively. Odds of 12-month MDD were significantly lower in men (OR, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.46-0.55) and in African American (OR, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.54-0.68), Asian/Pacific Islander (OR, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.45-0.67), and Hispanic (OR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.62-0.78) adults than in white adults and were higher in younger adults (age range, 18-29 years; OR, 3.0; 95% CI, 2.48-3.55) and those with low incomes ($19 999 or less; OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.49-2.04). Associations of MDD with psychiatric disorders ranged from an aOR of 2.1 (95% CI, 1.84-2.35) for specific phobia to an aOR of 5.7 (95% CI, 4.98-6.50) for generalized anxiety disorder. Associations of MDD with substance use disorders ranged from an aOR of 1.8 (95% CI, 1.63-2.01) for alcohol to an aOR of 3.0 (95% CI, 2.57-3.55) for any drug. Most lifetime MDD cases were moderate (39.7%) or severe (49.5%). Almost 70% with lifetime MDD had some type of treatment. Functioning among those with severe MDD was approximately 1 SD below the national mean. Among 12.9% of those with lifetime MDD, all episodes occurred just after the death of someone close and lasted less than 2 months. The anxious/distressed specifier characterized 74.6% of MDD cases, and the mixed-features specifier characterized 15.5%. Controlling for severity, both specifiers were associated with early onset, poor course and functioning, and suicidality.

Conclusions and Relevance: Among US adults, DSM-5 MDD is highly prevalent, comorbid, and disabling. While most cases received some treatment, a substantial minority did not. Much remains to be learned about the DSM-5 MDD specifiers in the general population.

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