The Increase of Undiagnosed Depressive Disorder

One of the major public health issues confronting the United States is the fast rise in the prevalence of depression.

Hidaka (2012) criticizes individualism, unhealthy eating habits, and a lack of fitness culture as underlying factors in the disorder's growing burden. Depression rates have risen disproportionately in recent years, with experts claiming that the burden is more than stated because the majority of cases go undetected and untreated. While new diagnostic procedures and antidepressants have eased the situation, the majority of cases go unnoticed until they are advanced, making them costly to manage. Despite the financial implication of severe depression, the disorder remains one of the most under-diagnosed, with 50% of cases living with the condition without their knowledge. One of the underlying aspects of the trend is limited awareness, with most vulnerable subsets of the population perceiving the shrink as normal life events. The trend has been aggravated by the influence of misconceptions and fallacies surrounding manic episodes. Nevertheless, the biggest setback in attempts to increase coverage of diagnosis is systemic failures such as underfunding and inequities, as well as workforce shortages.

The Need for Nurse Practitioners

While experts have expressed their concern that the trends that have contributed to under-diagnosis and under-treatment of depression could jeopardize public health gains that have been achieved following new medical technology and practice, advanced practitioners such as family nurses are they cog in future solutions. ANPs are an untapped potential to the human resource gaps and have a critical role in addressing concerns over the shrinking number of physicians. Besides being one of the largest group of providers at primary care setting, recent development has also seen a promising trend where the population of Master’s level prepared nurses have been growing. The graduates possess not only advanced skills but can also work in community settings. The primary care settings are critical in addressing under-diagnosis of depressive disorder, as they serve traditionally overlooked groups such as the uninsured, the homeless, and immigrant communities among other high-risk groups. The practice is expected to keep evolving, an aspect that will not only equip APNs with needed skills to diagnose even moderate depression but also position them to take places from the projected shortage of primary care physicians (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2013).


Hidaka, B. H. (2012). Depression as a disease of modernity: explanations for increasing prevalence. Journal of affective disorders, 140(3), 205-214.

US Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Projecting the supply and demand for primary care practitioners through 2020.

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