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Report: 1 in 5 Adults Had Mental Illness in 2010

Rates of Illness Significantly Higher Than Rates of Treatment
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 19, 2012 -- A new federal report estimates that 20% of American adults -- more than 45 million people -- had some form of mental illness in 2010.

The annual survey, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), shows a very slight increase in rates of mental illness compared to those reported in the 2009 survey. Overall, according to the latest survey, the numbers have remained steady.

“Today’s report issued by SAMHSA provides further evidence that we need to continue efforts to monitor levels of mental illness in the United States in order to effectively prevent this important public health problem and its negative impact on total health,” Ileana Arias, PhD, principal deputy director of the CDC, says in a news release accompanying the report.

Report: Women More Likely Than Men to Have Mental Disorder

Here are the highlights:

  • Nearly 30% of young adults -- those aged 18 to 25 -- were estimated to have had a diagnosable disorder. That’s more than any other age group. The estimates for adults between the ages of 26 and 49, and those 50 and over, were 22.1% and 14.3%, respectively.
  • Women are more likely than men to have a mental disorder (23% vs. 16.8%); however, mental illness among men is on the rise, according to the survey. In 2009, 15.6% of men had a mental disorder.
  • More than a quarter of people of mixed race had some form of mental disorder in 2010, compared to 20.6% among whites and 19.7% among African-Americans. Asians, at 15.8%, had the lowest score, followed by Hispanics at 18.3% and American Indians or Alaska Natives at 18.7%.
  • The survey also reports that those below the poverty line had significantly higher rates of mental illness than those with larger incomes.

Those figures cover people who have what SAMHSA refers to as “any mental illness,” or AMI. That means any diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder regardless of whether or not it impairs a person’s day-to-day life. For example, someone with an AMI could meet the criteria for depression yet still be able to function normally both at work and at home.

The survey also looked at those with serious mental illness, or SMI. Overall, 11.4 million U.S. adults -- about 5% of the adult population -- had a disorder that greatly impaired their ability to function in daily life. As with AMIs, young adults, women, and those of mixed race were the most likely to have had an SMI during 2010.

Suicide, Major Depression, and Substance Abuse

The number of adults who contemplated or attempted suicide was also tallied. According to the report, 8.7 million Americans seriously considered suicide, and 2.5 million of them made plans to kill themselves. About 1 million adults attempted it.

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