The mental health crisis in America is still on the rise, yet so is treatment. By looking at the percentage of people with mental health issues, their risk factors, and how many go untreated each year we can unpack whether trends are looking positive or gloomy for the future.
This article will cover the major mental health statistics in America in 2022, such as what percentage of the US has mental illness and what is the #1 mental health problem in the US?
As it stands, nearly 10 million Americans live with some form of serious mental health disorder. The three most common disorders are anxiety, major depression, and bipolar disorder. Of the three disorders, anxiety is perhaps the most treatable, yet only 37% of those suffering actually receive treatment.
When looking at American mental health statistics, data shows that nearly one in five adults in the U.S. (around 53 million) lives with a mental illness or condition of some sorts. And, this figure is only increasing over time in the US.
Countries will often differ in their categorization methods as well as the levels of untreated, unrecognized illness. More U.S adults were provided with a mental health diagnoses than other high-income countries (over double the UK and Germany for example), whilst simultaneously being the most likely to report affordability or access issues. An arguably more explicit method of comparing mental illness is using suicide rates.
French sociologist Émile Durkheim concluded that because suicide rates differ between countries, we cannot look to psychology alone but also sociology, otherwise data would be consistent across all societies. In other words, the society we are born in is a determining factor in one’s likelihood to develop mental health issues. This can be proven by differing mental illness statistics worldwide 2023 by country.
Durkheim’s findings also showed Catholics had lower suicide rates than protestants because of stronger social control and cohesion. As for the U.S, we have some of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.
After substance abuse, anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in both the US and the rest of the world. Symptoms of anxiety include excessive worrying, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, and panic attacks. It’s also common for both anxiety and depression to be diagnosed together.
Anxiety is highly treatable through a variety of methods. CBT is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety sufferers, but medication is often prescribed as well (i.e. SSRIs and benzodiazepines).
The biggest risk factors for causing an anxiety disorder are previous trauma, stress, personality types, genetics, substance abuse, and other mental health disorders like depression.
As mentioned above, only 37% of anxiety sufferers receive treatment for it. The concerns over untreated anxiety is more than just worrying – it can lead to substance misuse, depression, social isolation, physical illness (i.e. blood pressure, digestive problems), and even suicide.
For more information, read our best online therapy sites for anxiety therapy, where we cover all available treatments and compare them to other known methods of therapy.
Depression is a mood disorder that describes persistent feelings of sadness or apathy. It can affect the way we think and act, as well as leading to emotional and physical problems. Symptoms can be sadness, anger, loss of interest in normal hobbies, insomnia, anxiety, reduced appetite, slowed thinking, and thoughts of suicide.
Causes of depression can be biological, brain chemistry, hormones, and inherited traits. Those with a high risk of depression are those with trauma, certain personality traits (i.e. low self-esteem), being in the LGBTQ+ community, substance abuse, and other illnesses.
Complications of clinical depression can include weight gain, substance abuse, social isolation, suicidal tendencies, self-harm, anxiety, and family conflicts.
CBT counseling is highly effective for moderate depression, while antidepressants in conjunction with CBT for more severe depression. For more information on both, check our list of depression therapy websites.
Addiction is when a person does not have full control over what they are doing or are compulsively doing something which can become harmful to them. For example, frequently drinking too much alcohol or gambling more money than they can afford to lose.
This can manifest in many different ways, from overworking and overspending to substance misuse and spending too much time on the internet. Causes of addiction can range from childhood issues (neglect, trauma, aggression) to peer pressure and experimental phases with substances.
Risk factors include poverty in the community as well as parental criminal activity, poor academic achievement, and community attitudes.
Addiction treatments are often more nuanced than other illnesses. Abstinence-based recovery and group therapy are a common combination, like with 12-step. However, withdrawal symptoms need to be taken into account as they can be dangerous.
Detoxification can be used to help improve the health of an individual, but it often won’t treat the underlying behavioral causes that are driving the addictive behavior, which is why CBT is also popular, along with rational emotive behavior therapy and contingency management.
The US has around 22 million active substance use disorders and 45 million that are directly impacted by addiction. Around 75% report not receiving any treatment, and this is likely to be the case with more under-the-radar addictions like pornography and video games. Not receiving treatment can lead to risk factors that depend on what the addiction is – losing a family’s savings in the casino or overdosing on substances. Even more “benign” addictions can lead to interfering with relationships, careers, and self-esteem.
Read our article about online addiction therapy to review the available options and how they compare to offline rehab programs.
Bipolar is a disorder that deeply affects one’s mood, swinging from one extreme to another. Previously termed manic depression, patients swing from feeling very low and lethargic to extremely energetic. If untreated, the greater risks are during a depressive episode, which is similar to the risks stated above of feelings of worthlessness, apathy, and suicidal thoughts.
However, symptoms during a manic episode can help tell bipolar apart from depression, as it can be a period of time where one is extremely energetic, happy, ambitious, and potentially wants to spend a lot of money on things they cannot afford or didn’t previously want. A lack of sleep, eating, and talking fast are also common.
Treatment for bipolar often involves mood-stabilizing medicine to prevent episodes, talking therapy, and CBT, as well as general counseling. The treatments reflect the broad range of causes of bipolar, from lifestyle issues to genetic factors.
Around 0.6% of the world’s population (46 million) suffer from bipolar disorder, of which more are female than male. In the US, it’s estimated that around 2.8% of the adult population are bipolar; more of which were male than female. Around 51% of individuals with bipolar disorders go untreated each year.
When it comes to gender, both estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that have a large impact on our mood, cognition, and stress. This could help explain why females are more likely to suffer from anxiety than males, because they are more sensitive to low levels of corticotropin-releasing factor. However, environmental issues may also be a factor, as for example women experience more anxiety from sexual abuse than men do.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to become alcoholics, even though it’s not yet known why. Of the 88,000 alcohol-related deaths in the US each year, 62,000 are men and 26,00 are women. It could be because men have a bigger dopamine release than women.
With that in mind, when 40% of men are unwilling to talk about their mental health, it can be difficult to judge statistics across gender. It also means that men have a greater risk of going untreated, which is why overdoses and suicide figures are higher with men (despite depression figures being higher with women).
When it comes to age, 50% of mental health problems arise before the age of 14, whilst 75% of illnesses are established by age 24. Some illnesses, like schizophrenia, are unlikely to develop after the age of 40. That is why online teen therapy has become so popular over the past few years.
With anxiety, it’s generally a downward trend in which the youngest are the most susceptible. This is for a variety of reasons, from hormones during puberty to still trying to figure life out – it is often a time when life is most volatile. As we get older, we also have more time to learn our own coping mechanisms, understand our own minds and life, and seek treatment.
Likewise, youth mental health statistics in US show the age group who had experienced symptoms of depression the most was aged 18-29, in which there is a slow decline over age groups. However, it is unknown yet whether it’s a generational phenomenon; it’s possible that gen z will continue these higher rates of depression into older age groups because of lifestyle differences during adolescence today.
In the US, it is those that are ethnically white who suffer the most from mental disorders (45.6%) – almost double the prevalence than with Asians (23.5%). Blacks (37%) and Latinos (38.8%) share a similar prevalence of mental disorders. Within these findings, where the parent was born and if one was foreign-born were factors in disorder onset. For example, whites with at least one US-native parent were highest for mood disorders, whilst Asians with substance use disorders were higher when the respondent was born in the US.
The above study concluded that “exposure to the US context may be associated with greater mental disorder risk for Latinos and Whites particularly”, and that investigations of culture are needed to further analyze these differences. Going back to the Durkheim suicide study, it’s clear that culture and society play a role in mental illness. Whilst immigrants may experience a literal different society (i.e. born in a different country), ethnicities live within different sub-societies in the US and experience the US as a whole in different ways.
However, psychiatric disorders, which are commonly inherited, are higher among whites too. Ethnic minorities have less access to mental healthcare services in the U.S than whites and are more likely to receive poor-quality care when treated. Furthermore, whites are most likely to receive the best available treatments for anxiety and depression, whilst African Americans were more likely to terminate their treatment prematurely than whites.
When looking at what is the leading cause of mental health problems, it’s clear that age, ethnicity, and gender all play a role. However, are there more reasons behind why the mental illness rate in America is so high?
One of the largest risk factors is childhood trauma. It was discovered that trauma at a young age doubles the risk of experiencing a mental health disorder later in life. In the US, more than two-thirds of children experience one or more traumatic events by the age of 16.
Another risk factor is sexual assault, in which the majority of victims develop negative effects on their mental health. According to RAINN, sexual assault happens once every 92 seconds in the US. Around 80% of teenage girls who had been sexually assaulted would develop one mental health disorder within a few months, and 55% had 2 or more mental health disorders. Such trauma can lead to victims being more likely than the national average to have anxiety and PTSD as well as suicide attempts and eating disorders.
Finally, children of separated parents are more likely to live in poverty, experience family instability, and engage substance abuse. Although most children do not exhibit psychological problems from a divorce, risk increases by a factor of 1.5 to 2. Read our guide on online trauma therapy for more information.
Since the pandemic, there has been an increasing focus on mental health in the US. As a result, insurance providers, Medicaid, and Medicare are more likely to cover mental health treatments.
However, not all private mental health service providers are required to accept insurance, therefore it can still very much depend on the patient, their insurer, and the service they are looking to use.
A new poll suggests that 3 in 4 Americans with health insurance coverage found it easy to get mental healthcare. Around two-thirds of the respondents found an appointment within less than a month. Of the respondents, 38% were using telehealth services for therapy and counseling. Here is a list of online therapy sites that accept insurance.
Around 41 million adults in the U.S received mental health treatment in 2020. It appears the statistical increase in mental illness over the past 50 years has been matched by an increase in treatment. On the face of it, this figure sounds impressively high, yet we know that many still go untreated with their conditions. In 2002, this figure was 27.2 million, and there was a steady increase to 37 million 16 years later. However, between 2018 and 2019 there was a huge jump of 3.1 million.
The reason for this is not just because of the issues that lockdowns caused, but because the likes of BetterHelp and Talkspace spent over $100 million on advertising. It was during this time frame in which people became aware of online therapy, how affordable it was compared to its traditional counterpart, and how even their favorite influencers were endorsing it.
Because of its accessibility and pricing, online therapy is expected to play a very large role in the future of America’s mental health – particularly for the younger generation, which happens to be at the highest risk of anxiety and depression.
Studies show that online therapy is just as effective as in-person sessions and therefore should play a key role in tackling the high mental health figures in the US.