Living Well / Reducing Adult Depression

Mental Health and Well-Being: Reducing Adult Depression2022-02-02T09:05:11-08:00

Depression is a common and treatable condition

Good health is not limited to physical health.1 Mental health and well-being are also important. Therefore, screening and treatment for depression is an important priority for the Living Well goal. Depression is a common and treatable condition which can have serious health consequences if left untreated.2 Let’s Get Healthy California seeks to reduce the number of adults and adolescents (teens) who experience a major depressive episode. Additional data needs to be developed in order to provide a measure for effectively diagnosing and treating depression in adolescents and adults.3

For resources regarding Mental Health services for various populations, please see the Mental Health Services Division website.

For details on County Mental Health Plans, including links on depression screening resources, please see the Mental Health Quality Improvement Work Plan website.

Adult Depression

In 2012 (baseline year), 11.7% of adults were told they had a depressive disorder. The most recent data available show 17.8% (2018). We hope to reach a target of no increase in prevalence compared to baseline by 2022.

More Data about Adult Depression



Current Rate



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Indicator Highlights

Data Snapshot: Trends and Disparities

Proportion of Adults Who Were Told They Had a Depressive Disorder, Over Time

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Proportion of Adults Who Were Told They Had a Depressive Disorder, by Demographic Category

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Indicator: Proportion of adults who were ever told they had a depressive disorder (including depression, major depression, dysthymia, or minor depression)

Indicator Description: Based on the question “Has a doctor, nurse or other health professional EVER told you that you have a depressive disorder (including depression, major depression, dysthymia, or minor depression)?” from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a nationally coordinated, state-based, telephone-administered survey of adults. The cross-sectional health survey provides annual state-level population health estimates for health-related risk behaviors, preventive health practices, and chronic disease and injury.

Data Limitations: Limitations include: 1) relies on self-reported information, 2) provides prevalence, not incidence data (thus the target at best can match baseline; it can’t be lower than baseline), 3) bias or measurement error associated with telephone-administered survey of a sample of the population ( e.g., response bias, sampling variation), 4) designed to provide state-level population health estimates. CDC BRFSS Data Documentation 2016, 5) respondents were not asked what age they were at the time of diagnosis, therefore data could not be stratified by age.

The use of “health professional” in the question limits the estimated prevalence to diagnoses by physical health practitioners and does not clearly include mental health professionals. As a result, an unknown percentage of respondents who were diagnosed by a mental health professional may have answered “No,” when the answer should have been “Yes”.

By counting only those respondents who have been professionally diagnosed with depression, the new indicator cannot account for those individuals who, although suffering from any of the depressive spectrum disorders, may not have reported or sought help from a health professional. This could significantly underestimate the lifetime prevalence rate.  This underestimation will be relatively higher in subpopulations who have a greater lack of access to healthcare.

Indicator Source: 2012 and 2013 use the CDC BRFSS data (using California only). 2014 and 2015 are from the California BRFSS data. This is because in 2014, California BRFSS changed their weighting methodology to match that of the CDC. Versions prior to 2012 of the California BRFSS are not comparable to 2012 and later California BRFSS because of these methodology changes.

Indicator Calculation Methodology:

Data Collection Methodology:

Program URL Link:

Indicator Source Changes: Because of the changes in the methodology, researchers are advised to avoid comparing data collected before the changes (up to 2011) with data collected from 2012 and onward:

1. Office of Health Equity. (August 2015). Portrait of Promise: California Statewide Plan to Promote Health Equity and Mental Health Equity. California Department of Public Health.,

2. Peck, C., Logan, J., Malzlish, N., & Van Court, J. (n.d.). The Burden of Chronic Disease. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from

3. Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force. (December 2012). Lets Get Healthy California Task Force Final Report. Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force.

4. Peck, C., Logan, J., Malzlish, N., & Van Court, J. (n.d.). The Burden of Chronic Disease. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from

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