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You may be surprised to find out how common mental health disorders are in this country.

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When you think of common health conditions affecting adults in the U.S., your thoughts likely turn to diseases like diabetes, heart disease or cancer. But did you know that mental illness is equally as common?

Mental illnesses include many different conditions that range in severity from mild to severe, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, personality and psychotic disorders, among others. Although statistics vary significantly when trying to estimate the true incidence of mental illness, as many as 1 in 5 American adults (21%) had a diagnosable mental illness in 2020, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Even more experience symptoms of anxiety and depression but don’t have a clinical diagnosis.

Here are some statistics about how mental illness affects varying groups of people:

      • Young adults (aged 18-25) are the most likely to experience mental illness and older adults (aged 50 and older) are the least likely (30.6% vs 14.5%).
      • Women are more likely to experience mental illness than men (25.8% vs. 15.8%).
      • Adults reporting two or more races are most likely to experience mental illness (35.8%), followed by White (22.6%), Hispanic (18.4%), Black (17.3%) and Asian (13.9%) adults.

Although the exact cause of mental health disorders is not known, there are a number of biological, psychological and environmental factors that may play a role. These include:

      • Having a biological predisposition to chemical imbalances in the brain
      • Experiencing severe psychological trauma as a child
      • Living with environmental factors such as a dysfunctional family life, divorce, poverty or the death of a loved one
      • Having chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer or long-haul COVID
      • Feeling lonely or isolated
      • Long-term substance abuse

With so many people experiencing mental health disorders, there’s a good chance that someone you know is experiencing one now. Knowing this will hopefully make you more sensitive to what others may be going through. Remember this popular quote: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind. Always.”

If you are experiencing a mental health issue, help is available. Although there has long been a stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment in some communities, taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health. Any mental health issues you are dealing with should not be ignored.


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Date Last Reviewed: March 16, 2022

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