According to new results from a national survey, 19.9 percent of American adults in the United States (45.1 million) have experienced mental illness over the past year. The survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that 11 million adults (4.8 percent) in the U.S. suffered serious mental illness in the past year -- a diagnosable mental disorder has substantially interfered with, or limited one or more major life activities.
SAMHSA’s 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reveals that 8.4 million adults in the U.S. had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, 2.2 million made suicide plans, and one million attempted suicide.
The survey also reveals that in many cases those experiencing mental illness, especially those with serious mental illness, also have a substance use disorder (abuse or dependence on alcohol or an illicit drug). Nearly 20 percent (8.9 million) of adults in the U.S. with mental illness in the past year also had a substance use disorder. Among those with serious mental illness in the past year, 25.7 percent had a substance use disorder in the past year -- approximately four times the level experienced by people not suffering from serious mental illness (6.5 percent).
"Too many Americans are not getting the help they need and opportunities to prevent and intervene early are being missed," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. "The consequences for individuals, families and communities can be devastating. If left untreated mental illnesses can result in disability, substance abuse, suicides, lost productivity, and family discord. Through health care reform and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act we can help far more people get needed treatment for behavioral health problems."
Administrator Hyde announced the survey’s findings during an address before the 6th World Conference on Promotion of Mental Health and Prevention and Mental and Behavioral Disorders in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Education Development Center, Inc., The Clifford Beers Foundation, The Carter Center and the World Federation for Mental Health.
The survey provides other insights into the nature and scope of mental illness, including information on those segments of the population who may be at greater risk of experiencing mental illness. For example, the survey shows that mental illness is more likely among adults who were unemployed than among adults who were employed full time (27.7 percent versus 17.1 percent).
There is a marked difference in the percentages with mental illness between men and women as well, with 23.8 percent of women experiencing some form of mental illness, as opposed to 15.6 percent of men. In terms of age, young adults (ages 18 to 25) had the highest level of mental illness (30 percent), while those aged 50 and older had the lowest (13.7 percent).
Less than four in ten (37.9 percent) of adults in the U.S. with mental illness in the past year received mental health services. Service use was higher for adults with serious mental illness (60.2 percent); however, 4.4 million adults with serious mental illness in the past year did not receive mental health services.
Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings is based on the 2009 NSDUH -- the latest in a series of scientifically conducted annual surveys of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country. Because of its statistical power, it is a primary source of information on the levels of a wide range of behavioral health matters including mental health and substance abuse issues.
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.