CDC: 'Nearly 50% of U.S. Adults Will Develop at Least One Mental Illness'

Taylor Knopf | June 13, 2013 | 7:40pm EDT
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( -- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention says that at any given moment about a quarter of American adults are mentally ill and that over the course of their lifetimes about half of all Americans will develop at least one mental illness.

A CDC mental-health fact sheet--Mental Illness Surveillance Among U.S. Adults--says that "published studies report that about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.”

The fact sheet also notes that the authors of a 2011 CDC mental health surveillance report pointed out that "currently, no surveillance efforts at the national or state level are directed toward documenting anxiety disorders." The authors thus call for "initiating national-level anxiety disorder surveillance activities."

Mental illness, says the CDC, “refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders” and that “the most common mental illnesses in adults are anxiety and mood disorders.” Mental illnesses effects "include sustained abnormal alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and impaired functioning."

In addition, says the agency, "mental illness is associated with increased occurrence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer."

"The most common mental illnesses in adults are anxiety and mood disorders," says the fact sheet.

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The CDC said: “Mental illness also is associated with use of tobacco products and alcohol abuse."

The CDC published its most recent full surveillance report on mental illness among American adults on Sept. 2, 2011.

That report said the categories, subcategories, and terminology of mental illness have varied over time. “For example," said the report, "terms used to describe depression have included major and minor depression, psychotic depression, depression not otherwise specified, bipolar disorder, dysthymia, moderate to severe depression, and mild depression. However, the relationship among the disorders described by these different terms often is unclear.”

The CDC noted that among the standard questionnaires used for collecting data on depression, people are asked: "Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems? ... 1) little interest or pleasure in doing things; 2) feeling down, depressed, or hopeless; 3) trouble falling/staying asleep, sleeping too much; 4) feeling tired or having little energy; 5) poor appetite or overeating; 6) feeling bad about yourself or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down; 7) trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television; 8) moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed, or the opposite -- being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual; and 9) (PHQ-9 only) thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way.”

For pregnant women, the CDC noted, surveyors would ask questions that could indicate postpartum depression.

On May 17, 2013 the CDC published its surveillance report on mental health among children.

“A total of 13%–20% of children living in the United States experience a mental disorder in a given year, and surveillance during 1994–2011 has shown the prevalence of these conditions to be increasing,” said that CDC report.

“Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (6.8%) was the most prevalent parent-reported current diagnosis among children aged 3–17 years, followed by behavioral or conduct problems (3.5%), anxiety (3.0%), depression (2.1%), autism spectrum disorders (1.1%), and Tourette syndrome (0.2% among children aged 6–17 years). An estimated 4.7% of adolescents aged 12–17 years reported an illicit drug use disorder in the past year, 4.2% had an alcohol abuse disorder in the past year, and 2.8% had cigarette dependence in the past month,” reported the CDC.

Michael W. Chapman contributed to this report.

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