Seattle is still the nation’s saddest large metro area. At least during our gloomy winter months.

A new survey found that in the first two weeks of February, about 45% of Seattle-area adults said they were dealing with feelings of depression. Of the slightly more than 3 million people age 18 and older in our metro area, an estimated 1.4 million were feeling “down, depressed, or hopeless” at least a few days during the previous two weeks.

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This data comes from the Census Bureau’s ongoing Household Pulse Survey, a national survey that includes a breakout for the 15 largest metro areas (Seattle’s metro, which includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, just makes the cut at No. 15). And of those 15, Seattle had the highest percentage of respondents who answered they had feelings of depression or hopelessness in the past two weeks.

But, as with all survey data, there is a certain amount of error built into it. On top of that, any survey of people’s mental health is bound to have some degree of variance. Feelings of depression can change from day to day or week to week.

To see if Seattle’s higher rate in February was a fluke, I looked at the results from the five most recent Household Pulse surveys, going back to fall of last year.

It wasn’t. In three of the five surveys, Seattle ranked No. 1, with the percentage of adults having feelings of depression ranging from 41% to 48%.


But I was also curious to see if we felt any better during our sunny and dry summer months. Seasons do indeed appear to play a role. In the surveys conducted from June through August, only 39% to 42% of people in the Seattle area had experienced depression at least several days over the past two weeks, compared with 45% in the February survey.

The first time I looked at the Household Pulse Survey on depression was also in the winter, back in December 2020. I found Seattle ranked No. 1 at the time, too. The percentage was even higher then, with nearly 50% saying they were experiencing feelings of depression. However, the numbers aren’t exactly comparable to the current survey because the question changed. The earlier version asked respondents about their feelings of depression in the past seven days. Since then, the survey changed to ask about feelings over the previous two-week period.

When I wrote about this in 2020, it was at the height of the pandemic, and with the state in lockdown. On top of that, it was during our gloomy winter season.

Winter is still gloomy here, but the lockdowns are a thing of the past. Even so, our rate remains high. Among the 15 metro areas, Dallas was lowest — a full 12 percentage points lower than Seattle — with about 33% of adults experiencing feelings of depression in the past two weeks.

The survey also found that 45% of Seattle-area adults felt little interest or pleasure in doing things at least several days over the previous two weeks. That also ranked No. 1 among the metros.

In the February survey, most of the Seattle-area adults with feelings of depression (an estimated 830,000 people) said they experienced it several days in the previous two weeks. Another 256,000 experienced these feelings about half of the days, and another 289,000 said they felt this way every day.

The Household Pulse Survey is an experimental product of the U.S. Census Bureau, in conjunction with other federal agencies. Unlike other census products, which have a long lag time, the Household Pulse Survey provides near-real-time data. The program was initiated in 2020 in response to the pandemic. It was intended to help inform officials and policymakers about the impacts of the pandemic on communities across the country, and to provide data to aid in a post-pandemic recovery.

In the Seattle area, the rates of feelings of depression were somewhat higher for women than men (49% vs. 42%) and much higher for people who had never been married than people who were currently married (61% vs. 36%). The rates were also significantly higher for people under 30 (64%), for those with a household income of less than $35,000 (69%), and for people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (76%). Asian people had a lower rate than other racial/ethnic groups, with 33% saying they had feelings of depression at least several days in the previous two weeks.