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SAMHSA News - January/February 2008, Volume 16, Number 1

Statistics on Mental Health

SAMHSA’s Office of Applied Studies (OAS) recently released a new short report on veterans’ mental health.

Data indicate that an annual average of 7.0 percent of veterans age 18 or older (an estimated 1.8 million people) experienced past-year serious psychological distress (SPD).

In addition, 7.1 percent of veterans (an estimated 1.8 million people) met the criteria for a past-year substance use disorder (SUD), and 1.5 percent (an estimated 395,000 people) had co-occurring SPD and SUD.

Serious Psychological Distress and Substance Use Disorder among Veterans is based on combined National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data from 2004, 2005, and 2006.

The report indicates that veterans age 18 to 25 were more likely than their older counterparts to have higher rates of SPD, SUD, and co-occurring SPD and SUD—with 8.4 percent of veterans age 18 to 25 experiencing co-occurring SPD and SUD versus just 0.7 percent of those age 55 or older.

Among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who received care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) between 2001 and 2005, nearly one-third were diagnosed with mental health and/or psychosocial problems and one-fifth were diagnosed with SUD. (Read the cover story on veterans in this issue of SAMHSA News.)

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NSDUH Defines “Veteran”

In this report, NSDUH defines a veteran as an individual who has served in any of the U.S. Armed Forces (i.e., Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps) but who is not currently serving in the military. According to survey estimates, 25.9 million military veterans were living in the United States during this 3-year period.

For a free copy of Serious Psychological Distress and Substance Use Disorder among Veterans, visit SAMHSA’s OAS Web site at Additional SAMHSA reports on other topics are available at

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