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How Common Are Mental Health Problems?

Alcohol Dependence, Depression, Anxiety Top List in New U.S. Study
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 22, 2008 -- It may be just as common, if not more common, for people to develop mental health problems as lung cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease, a new study shows.

The study, published in today's advance online edition of Molecular Psychiatry, tracks new cases of substance abuse, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders among more than 34,000 U.S. adults.

The researchers interviewed participants and counted the number of people who had a specific mental disorder for the first time in their lives any time between 2004 and 2005. The figures don't include people with longstanding conditions.

The results:

  • 1.7% developed alcohol dependency
  • 1.51% developed major depression
  • 1.12% developed generalized anxiety disorder
  • 1.02% developed alcohol abuse
  • 0.62% developed any panic disorder
  • 0.53% developed bipolar I disorder
  • 0.44% developed a phobia
  • 0.32% developed drug dependency
  • 0.32% developed social phobia
  • 0.28% developed drug abuse
  • 0.21% developed bipolar II disorder

"Incidence rates of substance, mood, and anxiety disorders were comparable to or greater than rates of lung cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease," write the researchers, who included Bridget Grant, PhD, of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Men were more likely than women to report alcoholism and other substance use disorders. Women were more likely than men to report depression and anxiety. No gender trends were seen for bipolar disorder.

All of the disorders were most common in younger participants. That finding "underscores the need for increased vigilance in identifying and treating these disorders among young adults," Grant and colleagues write.

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