Depression in Children: Numbers Are Rising

By: Erika Watts - September 30, 2013

“Children” and “depression” are two words no one wants to see put together, but according to a UK study, it appears that the occurrence of childhood depression is on the rise. The UK’s National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that around 80,000 children in the UK suffer from severe depression, and that depression affects children as young as five years of age.

The CDC reports that mental conditions in general are on the upswing in children, including depression, ADHD, anxiety and autism. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) says that it was formerly believed that children couldn’t get depressed, but doctors are now seeing depression in children in elementary school, and around 11 percent of adolescents are diagnosed with a depressive disorder by age 18.

The big question is, what is to blame for the increase in depression in kids? With the pressures of high school, it’s not as surprising that there are more older kids being diagnosed with depression, but thinking about a five-year-old kid who is just starting kindergarten being depressed is almost incomprehensible.

Some people believe technology is the culprit. As common as cyberbullying is, it’s not difficult to see how technology and depression could be related in older children, but that isn’t applicable in the younger kids who are just learning to read. Instead, technology is blamed in a perhaps less obvious way–with more kids sitting around playing games on tablets or other handheld devices, they aren’t moving around, going outside and getting enough exercise. Somewhere our parents are saying, “I told you so.”

Going outside and getting exercise are two key components to mental health. Not going outside and spending enough time soaking up the sun leads to a Vitamin D deficiency, which affects mood and is linked to depression. Lack of exercise can lead to a decrease in dopamine, which is often referred to as a “happy chemical” in our brains.

Depression Symptoms

If you are a parent or otherwise provide care for children, be on the lookout for some of the following symptoms of depression in children that are provided by WebMD. It’s important to note that a few of these symptoms being present once in a while doesn’t necessarily mean a child is depressed, but it is certainly something to track and bring up with the child’s primary care provider.

Irritability or anger.
Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Social withdrawal.
Increased sensitivity to rejection.
Changes in appetite — either increased or decreased.
Changes in sleep — sleeplessness or excessive sleep.
Vocal outbursts or crying.
Difficulty concentrating.
Fatigue and low energy.
Physical complaints (such as stomachaches, headaches) that don’t respond to treatment.
Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
Impaired thinking or concentration.
Thoughts of death or suicide.

Image via YouTube

Erika Watts

About the Author

Erika WattsErika Watts is a former teacher, now stay-at-home-mom and contributing writer for WebProNews. When she isn’t busy navigating parenthood and writing, she enjoys watching college sports and reading. Follow Erika on Twitter @erikawatts83, Pinterest or

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  • Michael

    It seems like a combination of factors. We can’t blame the school system for pre-schoolers, since they haven’t been to school yet. I agree that too much computer time and too much TV time are part of the problem. Parents need to learn parenting skills and stop overprotecting the kids. Kids don’t go outside to play anymore. Kids need to be allowed to be kids again. Daycare is also a problem. These centers are basically fancy cages that do not permit children to learn, grow, & be creative.

    Society sucks & kids get the worst deal.

  • Hmm

    I think it is the parents who are out of touch with reality. They still think that kids today are like the ones in the 1950s or 1980s or even the 1990s. They are nothing like that. They are doing everything adults are doing and with that comes the anxiety that adults have. In the past 15 years, everything has simply changed.

    As for cyberbullying — there is an easy way to stop that. TURN OFF THE DEVICE and teach children that the reality of life is that not everyone will like you. Some people hate people they do not even know and literally, have never even seen. Teach your children that if someone doesn’t like them, well that is okay because plenty of people will.

    Also, we need to realize that the internet is full of crazy people. Do you ever wonder about those people that set other people up on the internet? They literally spend weeks, months, and sometimes years, pretending to be a person they are not just so they can “arrest” or “catch” someone. Besides the fact that in my entire life, I have never seen a victim pursue an attacker and invite that attacker to meet them – those people are now proving to be literally insane and many have criminal backgrounds. The sad part is many very innocent men are going to prison because of those insane people but that tide is about to change because many experts are just now beginning to speak about this.

    There are lots of people like that on the internet — insane, mean people who just want to hurt other people. We need to teach our children that those terrible types of people are out that in the “cyber” world. All the internet does is allow awful people to do what they normally do anonymously. It gives that bully more courage because they will never have to back up what they say. The internet is a coward’s paradise.

    • Sunny

      What are you trying to say? That if a kid gets bullied, not to react? Not to tell an adult? That it’s okay because not everyone will like you? What kind of parenting is that?

      Also, there are crazy people in real life, not just on the internet. Behind those screens is a real person typing. They need to be taught ALL the dangers, not just the internet.

      I definitely agree the internet is a cowards paradise (great nickname for it actually). Why get into a confrontation with someone when you can say horrible things to them anonymously. I honestly wouldn’t want to be a kid going through school now, it was hard in the 90’s, but now it seems much worse!

  • Bea

    This is so sad I could cry! :'( So many adults kill themselves over depression, I can’t even imagine what it’s doing to a child!!! There should be no reason a 5 year old feels hopeless and depressed. There should just be no reason.

    • Nene

      Agreed. This is probably why the child suicide rate has skyrocketed. A lot of kids are killing themselves as well. We are living in the end of days.

  • Nene

    Times have truly changed, I think kids are more depressed today then they were yesterday due to all the chemicals and pesticides we have in the food, water and air. Todays kids also go through a lot at a young age they are exposed to more violence and sexual themes today then they were yesterday. Kids today due to being raised in single parent homes are lacking attention, boundaries and proper discipline. A lot of kids today are raised in broken homes and neighborhoods with a feeling of no way out. Kids today have the world on their little shoulders and they are depressed because of it. I pray for the generation to come, if times are this hard now who knows how it will be in the years to come. I pray everybody get right with God and things change for the better.

  • Nene

    A lot of kids today need to get off the computer, stop playing those violent video games and leave the TV alone. Kids today need to learn how to eat right, go outside, exercise and run around and play with their peers, stimulate their young minds the proper way. A lot of kids watch violent TV shows and play violent video games and think that stuff wont alter their mood. Parent’s (mom and dad) need to take their kids outside more and spend time with them. If the parents spent more time with their kids instead of doing drugs, drinking and divorcing then the kids would be ok.

    I really think kids who are raised in a good two parent home turn out better than kids who are raised by a single parent mostly women especially in the Black and or African American communities. Kids need both a mom and a dad who can show them the ways of life properly. Stop letting the streets and TV raise your kids and they will be alright. Raising kids in single parent homes make life a little bit more difficult because the single parent have to do everything for the child alone which is difficult because a person can only do so much. Kids who are raised by single parents barely see the parent because the parent works two jobs just to make ends meet. then the kids are left to fend for themselves or left with babysitters who you really can’t truth. Now I see why God made Adam and Eve, he made a man and a woman to share the responsibilities so everything wouldn’t just fall on one person.

  • Ryan Weston

    We need to have a complete rethink about how and why society is run ? Who is benefitting from the current arrangement ? It seems to me that that our society has put people’s well being on the complete backburner and it has been sacrificed for productivity, money and endless competition. That visceral competition, is openly and unashamedly, encouraged in our schools. Consequentially our schools have become incubators of bullying and we have put our children in a system that puts enormous pressure on them to “perform”. Is it any wonder then that our children are feeling so miserable ? People’s lives should amount to more than just working in a social system, that will often see them performing jobs, that serve no other purpose than to make a few people rich. People need much more nourishment in their lives than what they are being provided with now. Happiness has to come at the top of the National agenda. There is an app that is being designed specifically to make people happy. It is on the following links: