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20% Of Americans Suffered Mental Illness Last Year

November 19, 2010

About 20 percent of US adults — 45 million Americans — had some form of mental illness last year, with 25 percent of those having a serious illness, US government researchers reported on Thursday.

The highest level of mental illness (30 percent) was found in young adults between the ages 18 and 25, while those aged 50 and older had the lowest at 13.7 percent, said the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA, part of the National Institutes of Health, said the rates were slightly higher than last year’s 19.5 percent and reflected increasing depression, especially among unemployed Americans.

“Too many Americans are not getting the help they need and opportunities to prevent and intervene early are being missed,” said Pamela Hyde, in a statement to Reuters.

“The consequences for individuals, families and communities can be devastating. If left untreated mental illnesses can result in disability, substance abuse, suicides, lost productivity, and family discord,” Hyde said.

Last year’s survey hints at the impact of record unemployment numbers, which hit a 25-year high in 2009 as struggling employers were forced to cut jobs to cope with the weakened economy.

For many, lost employment meant lost health insurance, leaving many Americans unable to get the treatment they needed.

According to figures from the survey, 6.1 million adults last year had a mental health need that went untreated, and 42.5 percent said it was because they could not afford treatment.

It found 14.8 million Americans had major depression last year, 10 percent of those unemployed did, 7.5 percent of retired people or those not in the job force, 7.3 percent who held part-time jobs and 5.4 percent who worked full time also suffered major depression in 2009.

The survey found that only 64 percent of adults 18 or older with major depression were treated last year, compared with 71 percent from the previous year.

Also, those who were unemployed in 2009 were twice as likely to have thoughts of suicide as people who were employed full time, while 6.6 percent of the unemployed considered suicide and 3.1 percent of those who were working.

The survey also found that 23.8 percent of women had some type of mental illness, compared with 15.6 percent of men.

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