1 in 4 Americans have mental illness
May is Mental Health Month again, so it’s also a good time
to review the mental health statistics behind mental illness. Some of the
statistics going around aren’t entirely accurate, because they’re based upon
outdated web pages on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website.
This misinformation is then propagated by well-meaning people and organizations,
including NAMI and others. Sadly, the NIMH website is not as accurate or
up-to-date as people like to think it is (I think that because it’s a government
resource, people just assume it’s accurate and correct).
For instance, the NIMH Statistics page puts data into context of 2004 Census
data. Well, it’s 2010, not 2004, and we have more up-to-date Census data. Also
according to the more recent NCS-R data, it’s not really 1 in 4 Americans who
could be diagnosed with a mental disorder in any given year — it’s 1 in
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 we had an estimated 307,006,550
people living in the U.S., approximately 75.5 percent of which are 18 or older.
This translates to 231,789,945 adults. If we use the estimate of 26.2 percent of
adults 18 or older who suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given
year, that translates into 60.7 million Americans. But I think the
“26.2 percent of adults” number is also inaccurate and not up-to-date.
According to the most recent prevalence data we have (from the NCS-R, Kessler et al 2005, which is based upon 9,282
subjects), the 12 month prevalence rate for any mental disorder or substance
disorder is 32.4 percent. Substance disorders — like alcoholism
— are recognized in the rest of the world as a mental disorder, and indeed are
included in the DSM-IV as such. So why the NIMH would leave those out of the
estimate is beyond me.
So looking at these numbers
with the latest data, we have nearly 1 in 3 Americans who are suffering from a mental
disorder in any given year, or over 75 million people