One in five Americans had mental illness last year: survey

November 19, 2010

Nearly one in five Americans, or 45 million adults, experienced some form of mental illness last year, according to a major US government survey published on Friday.

The 18-25 age group reported the most mental illness, and more women than men were afflicted, said Peter Delany, a doctor who heads behavioral research at the Substance Abuse and Services Administration.

"One in five people have suffered from a mental illness in the past year. That is a lot of people," Delany told AFP.

About one in 20 individuals, or around 4.8 percent of the population, met the criteria for having a serious mental illness.

The study defined mental illness as "a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the past year, regardless of their level of functional impairment."

A vast number of conditions could fall under that category, including anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder, kleptomania, depression, , voyeurism, pathological gambling or insomnia.

Some of the same disorders could also land a person onto the "severe mental illness" side if he or she experienced the effects to such a degree that they caused a major disruption to daily life.

Mental illness was classified as severe when it "resulted in serious , which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities."

Severe mental illness would typically interrupt a person's life for at least two weeks and could include bipolar episodes, psychosis and attempted suicide as well as more extreme mood or .

Delany described as "significant" the findings that a full 30 percent of the 18-25 age group reported suffering some form of mental illness in the survey, which was carried out in 2009.

"These are the people that are going to college. These are the people that are going into the workforce. These are the individuals that are getting married and starting families," said Delany.

"In many cases, all of these groups aren't really getting significant help."

Women were more likely to have experienced mental illness, with 23.8 percent of women reporting such disorders compared to 15.6 percent of men.

Delany said the survey did not go into the causes of , but that the male-female findings were consistent with the bulk of clinical research today.

The annual survey is the largest of its kind undertaken by the US government.

Researchers obtain the results by visiting residences door-to-door and handing people a small audio-CASI computer and headphone set with which they can privately answer the survey.

Delany said the research compiled responses from 68,000 people aged 12 and older who were not living in institutions, jails or on the street, and were not members of the US military.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Videogame loot boxes similar to gambling

June 19, 2018
Adolescents playing video games that offer randomised rewards to increase competitive advantage could possibly be exposed to mechanisms that are psychologically similar to gambling, according to new research just published ...

Mental health declining among disadvantaged American adults

June 19, 2018
American adults of low socioeconomic status report increasing mental distress and worsening well-being, according to a new study by Princeton University and Georgetown University.

Study on social interactions could improve understanding of mental health risks

June 19, 2018
McLean Hospital investigators have released the results of a study that outlines how age, socioeconomic status, and other factors might contribute to social isolation and poorer mental health. In a paper published in the ...

Researchers find increased risk of birth defects in babies after first-trimester exposure to lithium

June 18, 2018
Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found an elevated risk of major congenital malformations in fetuses after first-trimester exposure to lithium, in the largest study ever to examine the risk of ...

Nature programmes could put a spring in your step

June 18, 2018
New research shows that watching TV programmes such as the BBC's Springwatch and Countryfile might actually be good for you.

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

June 18, 2018
Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Ravenrant
not rated yet Nov 19, 2010
Let the free market reign, if it were up to psychologists it would be 11 out of 10. I personally think everyone is nuts but me. I also think that I'm the center of the universe and the letter k should be removed from the alphabet.
gwrede
3 / 5 (2) Nov 19, 2010
The American way to do something about this is to run to the lab and start developing a pill to fix it all.

But, just maybe, we should look at how society, market economy, culture and media are slowly but inevitably driving us up the creek without a paddle. We really should go to "more primitive" cultures, maybe (gasp!) even to the Middle East, and look at the prevalence of said ailments (anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder, kleptomania, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, voyeurism, pathological gambling or insomnia -- just for example), and try to find correlations between them and properties of those societies.

Every imperium has succumbed to something. Those who haven't been invaded by the enemy or a natural disaster, have crumbled from within. Could it be that sick citizens could be the first sign? Or do we wait till everybody is sick, and still not call it a sign?

Probably. What a shame.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.