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.

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