Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

May Is Mental Health Month: Mental Health Statistics


Today’s guest blog is by John Grohol, the CEO and founder of the site, PsychCentral. You can get to his original blog by clicking here.

May is Mental Health Month again, so it’s also a good time to review the mental health statistics behind mental illness. 

According to the most recent prevalence data we have (from the NCS-R, Kessler et al 2005, which is based upon 9,282 subjects), the 12 month prevalence rate for any mental disorder or substance disorder is 32.4 percent. 


Substance disorders — like alcoholism — are recognized in the rest of the world as a mental disorder, and indeed are included in the DSM-IV as such. 

So looking at these numbers with the latest data, we have nearly 1 in 3 Americans who are suffering from a mental disorder in any given year, or over 75 million people.

Behind the Numbers

Let’s break down the rates by category, as the NCS-R does:

  • Any Anxiety Disorder (women) 23.4% (men) 14.3% (both) 19.1%
  • Any Mood Disorder (women) 11.6%  (men) 7.7%  (both) 9.7%
  • Any Impulse-Control Disorder (women) 9.3%  (men) 11.7% (both) 10.5%
  • Any Substance Disorder (women) 11.6% (men) 15.4% (both) 13.4%
  • Any Disorder (women) 34.7% (men) 29.9% (both) 32.4%


As we can see, women are at a significantly greater risk for any anxiety disorder (more than double the risk for a specific phobia, like a fear of spiders, for panic disorder, and for post-traumatic stress disorder). They are also at slightly more risk for a mood disorder — especially for depression, where their rate is nearly double that of men’s risk for depression.

Men are at greater risk for impulse-control disorders, but no disorder significantly stands out except conduct disorder (more than 4 times the risk). Men are at more risk for substance disorders across the board as well, with more than twice the risk for alcoholism and three times the risk for drug abuse.


Looking at lifetime prevalence rates is also interesting and quite eye-opening. For any mental disorder (including substance disorders), the lifetime prevalence rate is an astonishing 57.4 percent. That’s more than every 1 in 2 Americans. If you don’t think mental illness will impact your life, you’re sadly mistaken. If it doesn’t hit you, it’s going to hit someone you love or are close to.



Kessler, R.C., Chiu, W.T., Demler, O., Merikangas, K. R., Walters, E.E. (2005). Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 617-627.


Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P.A., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K.R., Walters, E.E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 593-602.

  • tricia

    I am having some real problems that I’m hoping you might be able to help me with. I was sexually abused by my father and older brother. My mother turned a blind eye to what was happening. My father passed away a long time ago, my mother passed away december 17 2009, and my older brother passed away last week. I am a 45 year old famale and I have two grown children. I had made it a point to make peace, as an adult with my child hood and feel that I have come a long way in dealing with my issues. I made sure that my family knew that I had gotten passed a lot of my isues, before they passed away. And most importantly that I forgave them for all the hurts they had caused me. My question to you is will I ever stop fighting to heal my emotions?

  • vt

    wrong!!!! u just typed a book and made money… nothing more nothing less…..

  • Leanne

    I was in TERRIBLE car crash in Nov 1996 and am told I did almost die many, many times (had to be revived many times and be hooked up to lots of lifesaving machines). In crash I received moderate to severe brain damage to my brain (received damage to each lobe and also my brain stem). I was in deep coma for 7 1/2 weeks and when I came out I was like a 29 year baby. As such I had to relearn to eat, talk and walk. Later I had to relearn to read, write, do simple math.
    I am told that because of the brain damage that is why I have no memory, both long and short term. I cannot remember any times of my life including my marraige, times with our kids, or any time before in my life. I have tried looking at pictures, videos and such but nothing has restored those lost memories. Please tell me what I might do to help restore my memory. I sometimes feel so lonely because I don’t remember any times in my life. I am very lucky to be 42 years now, but do not remember any times in those 42 years. Thank you for your help, Leanne

  • erystahj

    I really enjoyed reading this blog on mental health. I have heard that most mental health problems are hereditary. I come from a family full of people who are close yet very far away..if you know what I mean. Medical issues are not openly discussed, or any issue for that matter. My Grandmother didn’t tell anyone that she had diabetes an incident where her POA had to be involved led to the Physician letting someone else know of her condition.
    Anyway, with that said I have gone through a bout with depression, and am not sure that it is gone or that I just push it out of my mind so that I don’t have to deal with it. But, is it possible that another disorder could have triggered the whole depression stint…I ask because I have always had a problem with germs, and other things. Some would call it OCD, but I have not sought professional help to get diagnosed properly because I don’t really like doctors or hospitals (no real reason other than I just don’t). Just wondering if my obsessions with germs, toilets, touching, and counting could have ultimately led to depression.

  • Bob

    For Leanne
    I received a serious TBI in 1974 on my 20th birthday. Every once in a while today things come back to me before that birthday still.
    The best thing I can suggest is to be around those who love you and make memories a day at a time as you live life. If you take your focus off what you don’t have and place it on what’s real and in front of you, life will be much more simple.
    I am speaking from total experience here,
    God bless you,

  • Amara

    The whole psychiatric world is crazy for naming things. Not helping. But naming. Contact for the real data on what’s going on in the world of mental health.

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