One in Five Americans with Mental Illness also Have a Substance Abuse Disorder

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has found that nearly 45.1 million Americans are currently suffering from a mental illness, with one in five also experiencing a substance abuse disorder.

Based on the results of the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), SAMHSA has found that 19.9% (45.1 million) of American adults have been dealing with a mental illness within the past year. Furthermore, 4.8%, or 11 million Americans are currently suffering from a serious mental health disorder that significantly impedes upon their quality of life.

The national report—based on the results of an annual survey conducted upon almost 67,500 Americans across the nation—has also revealed some startling statistics on the nature of the nation’s health. About 8.9 million Americans (20.0%) with a mental health disorder have a comorbid substance abuse problem. Furthermore, about one-fourth of those who have a serious mental disorder also have a substance abuse disorder—quadruple the rate of Americans without a mental health problem (25.7% vs. 6.5%). NSDUH also shows that an alarming 8.4 million American adults have seriously considered suicide within just the past year; 2.2 million had taken steps to plan their suicide; and almost 1 million actually have attempted suicide.

The latest SAMHSA findings were presented to the 6th World Conference on Promotion of Mental Health and Prevention of Mental and Behavioral Disorders in Washington, DC on November 18 by SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. The presentation was shared among a community of U.S. policymakers, health practitioners, and scientists who attended the event. Ms. Hyde stressed that the most significant facet of these findings is the communal impact of untreated mental health problems. Not only does a mental health problem deteriorate, limit, or restrict an individual from having a normal lifestyle, but their poor mental health also affects those around them, including family members, friends, associates, and the community at large. Unfortunately, untreated mental disorders not only increase costs among the community due to loss of productivity and disability, but the fiscal impact resonates among the local, state, and federal economy as well. Additionally, the report shows that mental health disorders are frequently occurring with comorbid behavioral health problems such as substance abuse and suicide, making the extent of the public health dilemma to expand across a multifaceted range.

Additionally, the NSDUH report can help identify individuals who may be more susceptible to poor mental health; for example, adults who are currently unemployed are more likely to have a mental illness than those who are currently employed (27.7% vs. 17.1%). Also, women have a greater risk for a mental disorder compared to men: 23.8% of women have had a mental illness within the past year, while only 15.6% of men have had a mental illness. Younger adults between the ages 18 to 25 years are the likeliest of any age group to experience a mental illness; 30.0% of younger adults have had a mental illness within the past year (the highest rate) compared to 13.7% of older adults (the lowest rate).

Sadly, only 37.9% of American adults who currently have a mental illness will seek treatment for their conditions. Individuals who have more serious mental health conditions are likelier to seek treatment (60.2%), yet 4.4. million individuals with a serious mental illness are still not receiving treatment every year. Recent changes produced by the Obama administration’s health care reform, as well as the Mental Health Parity Act and Addiction Equity Act have the potential to reach more Americans in need of mental health treatment. SAMHSA hopes that these initiatives will help generate the prevention and intervention outreach services that the U.S. population urgently needs in order to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems.

Source: SAMHSA, National survey reveals 45.1 million adults in the U.S. experienced mental illness in the past year, November 18, 2010

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