Prevalence of Mental Disorders
This following is a National Institute of Mental Health
(NIMH) report that summarizes statistics on the
prevalence of mental disorders in America. It is copied with approval of NIMH. Note that this
report covers only mental disorders. It does not cover personality disorders or
addictions. Several of the disorders are not relevant to security but are
included here to maintain the integrity of the NIMH report. The report may be found on the Internet at
It is dated 2008.
The Numbers Count:
Mental Disorders in America
Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An
estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults —
suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the
2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this
figure translates to 57.7 million people. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the
main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6
percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness. In addition,
mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for
ages 15-44. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given
time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria
for two or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity. In the U.S., mental disorders are diagnosed based on the
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).
Mood disorders include
dysthymic disorder, and bipolar
- Approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the
U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder.
- The median age of onset for mood disorders is 30 years.
- Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance
Major Depressive Disorder
- Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
for ages 15-44.
- Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American
adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a
- While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age
at onset is 32.
- Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.
- Symptoms of dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild depression) must persist
for at least two years in adults (one year in children) to meet criteria for
the diagnosis. Dysthymic disorder affects approximately 1.5 percent of the
U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. This figure translates to
about 3.3 million American adults.
- The median age of onset of dysthymic disorder is 31.
- Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or
about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
- The median age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years.
- In 2002, 31,655 (approximately 11 per 100,000) people died by suicide in
- More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable
mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse
- The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in white men over age
- Four times as many men as women die by suicide; however, women attempt
suicide two to three times as often as men.
- Approximately 2.4 million American adults, or about 1.1 percent of the
population age 18 and older in a given year, have schizophrenia.
- Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency.
- Schizophrenia often first appears in men in their late teens or early
twenties. In contrast, women are generally affected in their twenties or
Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias
(social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia).
- Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about
18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety
- Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive disorders or
- Most people with one anxiety disorder also have another anxiety
disorder. Nearly three-quarters of those with an anxiety disorder will have
their first episode by age 21.5.
- Approximately 6 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 2.7
percent of people in this age group in a given year, have panic disorder.
- Panic disorder typically develops in early adulthood (median age of
onset is 24), but the age of onset extends throughout adulthood.
- About one in three people with panic disorder develops agoraphobia,
a condition in which the individual becomes afraid of being in any place or
situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event
of a panic attack.
- Approximately 2.2 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 1.0
percent of people in this age group in a given year, have OCD.
- The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood or adolescence,
however, the median age of onset is 19.
- Approximately 7.7 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 3.5
percent of people in this age group in a given year, have PTSD.
- PTSD can develop at any age, including childhood, but research shows
that the median age of onset is 23 years.
- About 30 percent of Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD at some point
after the war. The disorder also frequently occurs after violent personal
assaults such as rape, mugging, or domestic violence; terrorism; natural or
human-caused disasters; and accidents.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Approximately 6.8 million American adults, or about 3.1 percent of
people age 18 and over, have GAD in a given year.
- GAD can begin across the life cycle, though the median age of onset is
31 years old.
- Approximately 15 million American adults age 18 and over, or about 6.8
percent of people in this age group in a given year, have social phobia.
- Social phobia begins in childhood or adolescence, typically around 13
years of age.
Agoraphobia involves intense fear and anxiety of any place or
situation where escape might be difficult, leading to avoidance of situations
such as being alone outside of the home; traveling in a car, bus, or airplane;
or being in a crowded area.
- Approximately 1.8 million American adults age 18 and over, or about 0.8
percent of people in this age group in a given year, have agoraphobia
without a history of panic disorder.
- The median age of onset of agoraphobia is 20 years of age.
Specific phobia involves marked and persistent fear and avoidance
of a specific object or situation.
- Approximately 19.2 million American adults age 18 and over, or about 8.7
percent of people in this age group in a given year, have some type of
- Specific phobia typically begins in childhood; the median age of onset
is seven years.
The three main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia
nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
- Females are much more likely than males to develop an eating disorder.
Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia and an
estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder are male.
- In their lifetime, an estimated 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of females
suffer from anorexia, and an estimated 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent suffer
- Community surveys have estimated that between 2 percent and 5 percent of
Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.
- The mortality rate among people with anorexia has been estimated at 0.56
percent per year, or approximately 5.6 percent per decade, which is about 12
times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among
females ages 15-24 in the general population.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
- ADHD, one of the most common mental disorders in children and
adolescents, also affects an estimated 4.1 percent of adults, ages 18-44, in
a given year.
- ADHD usually becomes evident in preschool or early elementary years. The
median age of onset of ADHD is seven years, although the disorder can
persist into adolescence and occasionally into adulthood.
Autism is part of a group of disorders called autism spectrum disorders (ASDs),
also known as pervasive developmental disorders. ASDs range in severity, with
autism being the most debilitating form while other disorders, such as
Asperger syndrome, produce milder symptoms.
- Estimating the prevalence of autism is difficult and controversial due
to differences in the ways that cases are identified and defined,
differences in study methods, and changes in diagnostic criteria. A recent
study reported the prevalence of autism in 3-10 year-olds to be about 3.4
cases per 1000 children.
- Autism and other ASDs develop in childhood and generally are diagnosed
by age three.
- Autism is about four times more common in boys than girls. Girls with
the disorder, however, tend to have more severe symptoms and greater
- AD affects an estimated 4.5 million Americans. The number of Americans
with AD has more than doubled since 1980.
- AD is the most common cause of dementia among people age 65 and older.
- Increasing age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. In most
people with AD, symptoms first appear after age 65. One in 10 individuals
over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 are affected. Rare, inherited forms
of Alzheimer’s disease can strike individuals as early as their 30s and 40s.
- From the time of diagnosis, people with AD survive about half as long as
those of similar age without dementia.