Half of US Adults Due for Mental Illness, Study Says

Half of the adults in the United States will develop a mental illness during their lifetime, a new report says. The most common are depression and anxiety.

About 16 percent of adults report suffering depression at some point, and 11 to 12 percent report an anxiety disorder, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first compilation of data from several national surveys and information systems.

The report included data collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "This new CDC study, combined with SAMHSA’s latest surveillance data, provides a powerful picture of the impact of mental illness on public health," said SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde. 

The report said mental illnesses are associated with numerous other chronic health disorders, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, and that treating mental illnesses can reduce their effects.

"People with mental disorders should seek help with the same urgency as any other health condition.  Treatment and support services are effective and people do recover," Hyde said.

The report, titled "Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States," will be followed next year by a study of U.S. children, the CDC said.

Who suffers mental illnesses

About 7 to 9 percent of the population is currently experiencing depression, the report said. The condition is more common among women — one survey showed that, nationwide, 10.5 percent of women currently have depression, while 6.8 percent of men do.

Based on residents' reports, the Southeastern states tended to have the nation's highest rates of depression: 13.7 percent of people in West Virginia, 13 percent in Mississippi, 12.5 percent in Alabama, and 12.2 percent in Arkansas.

North Dakotans reported the lowest rate, 5.3 percent.

Approximately 8.4 million U.S. adults had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, 2.2 million made suicide plans, and 1 million attempted suicide, the report said, citing a 2009 survey conducted by the SAMHSA.

Almost 15 percent of women who recently gave birth reported symptoms of post-partum depression. The condition was most common among younger mothers: 23.3 percent of women age 19 or younger reported symptoms, while 10.3 percent of women between ages 30 and 39 did. The reports also varied by race, with 21.5 percent of black women, 16.8 percent of Hispanic women and 11.9 percent of white women reporting symptoms.

Almost 2 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and 0.6 percent have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the report said, citing a 2007 survey.

Among nursing home residents, 18.7 percent of people ages 65 to 74, and 23.5 percent of people older than 85, reported mental illness.

Healthcare costs

During 2007 and 2008, adults whose primary health problem was a mental illness made 47.8 million visits to doctors and hospitals, the report said. Nearly one-third of these visits were for depression, the report said, citing two surveys conducted during those two years.

Mental illness cost the United States approximately $300 billion in 2002, the report said.

“The report's findings indicate that we need to expand surveillance activities that monitor levels of mental illness in the United States in order to strengthen our prevention efforts,” said Ileana Arias, principle deputy director of the CDC.

The report relied on a number of surveys conducted by the CDC, including the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a phone survey that has tracked health conditions since 1984 and includes data from all 50 states; the National Health Interview Survey, which collects questionnaires from 10,000 U.S. families; and the National Health and Nutrition Survey.

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