A new report providing state-by-state analyses of the prevalence of any mental illness including serious mental illness reveals significant variation across the country. For example, among adults aged 18 or older, the rate of serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year ranged from 3.5-percent in Hawaii and South Dakota to 7.2-percent in Rhode Island.
The report developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides valuable insight for state and public health authorities and service providers. This information can help guide the provision of effective treatment and prevention programs to restore lives and to reduce economic and societal costs. The report is part of SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality – an effort to achieve a national framework for quality improvement in behavioral health care.
“Mental illnesses are treatable and people can recover to live full, productive lives. Unfortunately in the past year only 37.9-percent of adults with mental health problems received any type of care,” said SAMSHA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “The chasm between need and care is costly both in terms of personal health because of missed opportunities to prevent disability and health care expenditures related to illness such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.”
SAMHSA defines mental illness based on diagnostic criteria in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). “Any mental illness” among adults aged 18 or older is the presence of any mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the past year that met DSM-IV criteria. Among adults with a disorder, those adults whose disorder caused substantial functional impairment (i.e., substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities) are defined as having serious mental illness (SMI) and the most urgent need for treatment.
Among the report’s other notable findings:
Nationally, 44.5 million adults aged 18 or older experienced any mental illness in the past year, corresponding to a rate of 19.7 percent of the adult population.
Among the states, the highest rate of any mental illness in adults aged 18 or older, occurred in Rhode Island (24.2-percent) while the lowest rate occurred in Maryland (16.7 percent).
Nationally, 10.4 million adults aged 18 or older (4.6-percent of that population), experienced a SMI in the past year. SMI rates ranged from 3.5-percent in Hawaii to 7.2-percent in Rhode Island.
Arkansas, Idaho, Rhode Island, Utah, and West Virginia had the highest rates for both SMI and any mental illness.
Alaska, Maryland, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Virginia had the lowest rates across both measures.
State-level estimates of SMI are based on data collected from 92,233 adults aged 18 or older from the combined 2008 and 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs) and 68,936 adults aged 18 or older for estimates of any mental illness. Only half of the 2008 sample was available for creating estimates of any mental illness. The full report is available online at
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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.