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Pediatric unipolar depression: Epidemiology, clinical features, assessment, and diagnosis

Liza Bonin, PhD
Section Editors
David Brent, MD
Diane Blake, MD
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


Depressive disorders are common in children and adolescents [1,2], impair psychosocial functioning, and are often accompanied by comorbid psychopathology [3,4]. Despite its detrimental effects, pediatric depression is often undertreated.

The epidemiology, clinical manifestations, assessment, and diagnosis of pediatric depression are reviewed here. Treatment of depression in youths is discussed separately. (See "Overview of prevention and treatment for pediatric depression" and "Pediatric unipolar depression and pharmacotherapy: General principles" and "Pediatric unipolar depression and pharmacotherapy: Choosing a medication" and "Pediatric unipolar depression: Psychotherapy".)


Prevalence — The risk for depression increases during childhood [5]. As an example, a survey of more than 78,000 parents in the United States in 2007 found that among their children, the point prevalence of depression for different age groups was as follows [2]:

3 to 5 years – 0.5 percent

6 to 11 years – 1.4 percent

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 16, 2016.
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