A new report reveals that nearly 46 million American adults aged 18 or older experienced mental illness in the past year. This is roughly 20 percent of the adult population in the United States.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health also shows that the rate of mental illness was more than twice as high among those aged 18 to 25 (30 percent) than among those aged 50 and older (14 percent).
Adult women were also more likely than men to have experienced mental illness in the past year (23 percent versus 17 percent).
Mental illness among adults is defined as having had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (excluding developmental and substance use disorders) in the past year, based on criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The SAMHSA survey also shows that 11.4 million adults (5 percent) suffered from serious mental illness in the past year. Serious mental illness is defined as one that resulted in “serious functional impairment, which substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities,” according to officials with the agency.
The economic impact of mental illness in the United States is considerable — about $300 billion in 2002, SAMHSA officials report. According to the World Health Organization, mental illness accounts for more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.
The report indicates that about four in 10 people experiencing mental illness in the past year (39 percent) received mental health services during that period. Among those experiencing serious mental illness, the rate of treatment was notably higher (61 percent).
“Mental illnesses can be managed successfully, and people do recover,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Mental illness is not an isolated public health problem. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity often co-exist with mental illness and treatment of the mental illness can reduce the effects of these disorders.”
The report also noted that an estimated 8.7 million American adults had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, including 2.5 million who made suicide plans and 1.1 million who attempted suicide.
According to the report, rates for substance dependence were far higher for those who experienced mental illness, noting that they were three times as likely to have met the criteria for substance dependence or abuse than those who had not experienced mental illness in the past year (20 percent versus 6 percent). Those who had experienced serious mental illness in the past year had even a higher rate of substance dependence or abuse (25 percent).
“These data underscore the importance of substance abuse treatment as well,” said Hyde.
The report also delved into the mental health issues of Americans aged 12 to 17. It found that 1.9 million kids between the ages of 12 and 17 — or about 8 percent — had experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. A major depressive episode is defined as a period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had at least four of seven additional symptoms reflecting the criteria as described in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, officials explain.
The kids who had experienced a major depressive episode in the past year had more than twice the rate of illicit drug use (37.2 percent) as their counterparts who weren’t depressed (17.8 percent).