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Survey: 1 in 5 Americans With Mental Illness

Jan 20th, 2012

mental illnessA recent report by the United States National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that more than 45 million American adults (roughly 1 in 5) suffered some form of mental illness the past year.

The survey also found that mental illness was more prevalent in adults aged 18 to 25 than among those aged 50 and above. It was more than twice in fact at 29.9% compared to 14.3%.

According to the survey, mental illness is defined as having a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder as described in DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder edition IV). It does not include developmental and substance abuse disorders.

The World Health Organization claims that mental illness is responsible for more cases of disability compared to other groups of illnesses in developed countries, cancer and heart disease included.

Mental illness has a high economic impact in the US. In 2002, it was estimated to be at $300 billion.

The study, performed by US government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), also noted:

  • Incidence of mental illness was more common in adult women (23%) compared to adult men (16.8%) in the past year.
  • People with mental illness are more likely to experience substance dependence and abuse compared to those without mental illness (20% compared to 6.1%).
  • In the past year, about 5% of the adult population or more than 11 million adults suffered from a major mental illness (the type that can lead to severe impairment that essentially disrupts or restricts one or more life activities).

“The data also shows how important substance abuse treatment is,” according to SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “With proper management, people with mental illness do recover,” she noted. She also added that the government wants the people to be aware that mental health services are available to individuals, families, and communities.

Mental illness is tied-up with other public health concerns, she said. It is often found alongside other diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory conditions. It can also be connected with risk behaviors like excessive drinking, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and lack of sleep. Treating mental illness will often reduce the consequences brought by other associated disorders, Hyde added.

According to the report, 39% of those with mental illness took advantage of mental health services. The rate was even higher among those with serious mental illness, at 60%.

Data shows that in the past year, approximately 8.7 million adults considered killing themselves, this includes 2.5 million who made actual suicide plans, and 1.1 million who went through with it.

The report also pointed out important issues concerning adolescents (12-17 years old). There were 1.9 million or 8% of adolescents who went through a major depressive episode in the past year.

Principal Deputy Director Dr. Ileana Arias of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the report shows the need to constantly monitor mental illness levels in the United States in order to treat this public health problem and its negative consequences on total well-being.


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