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.
Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Dysthymic Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Social Phobia
- Specific Phobia
The burden of mental illness 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.
Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymic
disorder, and bipolar disorder.
- Approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about
9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a
- The median age of onset for mood disorders is 30
- Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance
Major Depressive Disorder
- Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of
disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.
- Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8
million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18
and older in a given year.
- While major depressive disorder can develop at any
age, the median age at onset is 32.
- Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.
- Symptoms of dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild
depression) must persist for at least two years in adults (one year in
children) to meet criteria for the diagnosis. Dysthymic disorder affects
approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given
year. This figure translates to about 3.3 million American adults.
- The median age of onset of dysthymic disorder is 31.
- Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million
American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older
in a given year.
- The median age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years.
- Approximately 2.4 million American adults, or about
1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older in a given year, have
- Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal
- Schizophrenia often first appears in men in their late teens or early
twenties. In contrast, women are generally affected in their twenties or early
Anxiety disorders include panic disorder,
obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized
anxiety disorder, and phobias (social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific
- Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and
older, or about 18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have
an anxiety disorder.
- Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive
disorders or substance abuse.
- Most people with one anxiety disorder also have another anxiety disorder.
Nearly three-quarters of those with an anxiety disorder will have their first
episode by age 21.5
- Approximately 6 million American adults ages 18 and
older, or about 2.7 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have
- Panic disorder typically develops in early adulthood
(median age of onset is 24), but the age of onset extends throughout
- About one in three people with panic disorder develops agoraphobia, a
condition in which the individual becomes afraid of being in any place or
situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of
a panic attack.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Approximately 2.2 million American adults age
18 and older, or about 1.0 percent of people in this age group in a given
year, have OCD.
- The first symptoms of OCD often begin during
childhood or adolescence, however, the median age of onset is 19. .
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Approximately 7.7 million American adults age 18 and
older, or about 3.5 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have
- PTSD can develop at any age, including childhood, but
research shows that the median age of onset is 23 years.
- About 19 percent of Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD at some point after
the war. The disorder also frequently occurs after violent personal assaults
such as rape, mugging, or domestic violence; terrorism; natural or
human-caused disasters; and accidents.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Approximately 6.8 million
American adults or about 3.1 percent of people age 18 and over, have GAD in a
- GAD can begin across the life
cycle, though the median age of onset is 31 years old.
- Approximately 15 million American adults age 18 and
over, or about 6.8 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have
- Social phobia begins in childhood or adolescence, typically around 13
years of age.
Agoraphobia involves intense fear and anxiety of
any place or situation where escape might be difficult, leading to avoidance of
situations such as being alone outside of the home; traveling in a car, bus, or
airplane; or being in a crowded area.
- Approximately 1.8 million American adults age 18 and
over, or about 0.8 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have
agoraphobia without a history of panic disorder.
- The median age of onset of agoraphobia is 20 years of age.
Specific phobia involves marked and persistent fear and
avoidance of a specific object or situation.
- Approximately 19.2 million American adults age 18 and
over, or about 8.7 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have
some type of specific phobia.
- Specific phobia typically begins in childhood; the median age of onset is
The three main types of eating disorders are anorexia
nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
- Females are much more likely than males to develop an
Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder are male.
In their lifetime, an
estimated 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of females suffer from anorexia, and an
estimated 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent suffer from bulimia.
- Community surveys have estimated that between 2
percent and 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a
- The mortality rate among people with anorexia has been estimated at 0.56
percent per year, or approximately 5.6 percent per decade, which is about 12
times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among
females ages 15-24 in the general population.