Mental Disorders

The Impact of Mental Disorders


Mental Disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity.

The Impact of Mental Disorders and Illness on Society

The burden of mental disorders on health and productivity in the United States and throughout the world has long been underestimated. Data developed by the massive Global Burden of Disease study conducted by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and Harvard University, reveal that mental illness, including suicide, accounts for over 15 percent of the burden of disease in established market economies, such as the United States. This is more than the disease burden caused by all cancers.
Related Information

* Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (SAMHDA), supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, provides free, ready access to comprehensive research data and promotes the sharing of these data among researchers, academics, policymakers, service providers, and others.
* Epidemiology of Mental Illness, a section from Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
* Fact Sheets from Culture, Race, and Ethnicity: A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
* The Global Burden of Disease study, conducted by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and Harvard University
* Access to statistics and reports on children and families
* Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) – a family of health care databases and related products sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). This site includes HCUPnet, a free, on-line query system with instant access to the largest set of publicly available all-payer hospital care databases.
* Agency for Healthcare Quality Research (AHRQ): The Five Most Costly Conditions, 1996 and 2006: Estimates for the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population. This statistical brief presents data from the Household Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-HC) concerning medical expenditures. (PDF, 5 pages)

REPRINTED with permission from: National Institute of Mental Health
Science Writing, Press & Dissemination Branch
Web site:

Click here for the original article on the Impact of Mental Illness on Society.

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