Mental Illness Statistics in the USA

Mental Disorders in America

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.1
When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate
for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people.2Even
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.1 In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44.3
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 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to

In the U.S., mental disorders are diagnosed based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).4

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder.

  • 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.1
  • The median age of onset for mood disorders is 30 years.5
  • Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance abuse.5

Major Depressive Disorder

  • Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.3
  • 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 given
  • While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5
  • Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.6

Dysthymic Disorder

  • 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.1 This figure translates to about 3.3 million American adults.2
  • The median age of onset of dysthymic disorder is 31.1

Bipolar Disorder

  • 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.1
  • The median age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years.5


  • In 2006, 33,300 (approximately 11 per 100,000) people died by suicide in the U.S.7
  • 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 85.9
  • Four times as many men as women die by suicide9; however, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.10


  • Approximately 2.4 million American adults, or about 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older in a given year,11 have schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency.12
  • Schizophrenia
    often first appears in men in their late teens or early twenties. In
    contrast, women are generally affected in their twenties or early

Anxiety Disorders

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 disorder.1
  • Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive disorders or substance abuse.1
  • 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 5

Panic Disorder

  • 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.1
  • Panic
    disorder typically develops in early adulthood (median age of onset is
    24), but the age of onset extends throughout adulthood.5
  • 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.12

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • 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.1
  • The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood or adolescence, however, the median age of onset is 19.5

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • 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.1
  • PTSD can develop at any age, including childhood, but research shows that the median age of onset is 23 years.5
  • About 19 percent of Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD at some point after the war.13
    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 (GAD)

  • Approximately 6.8 million American adults, or about 3.1 percent of people age 18 and over, have GAD in a given year.1
  • GAD can begin across the life cycle, though the median age of onset is 31 years old.5

Social Phobia

  • 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.1
  • Social phobia begins in childhood or adolescence, typically around 13 years of age.5


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.5

  • 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.1
  • The median age of onset of agoraphobia is 20 years of age.5

Specific Phobia

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
  • Specific phobia typically begins in childhood; the median age of onset is seven years.5

Eating Disorders

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 bulimia14 and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder15 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 from bulimia.16
  • Community
    surveys have estimated that between 2 percent and 5 percent of
    Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.15,17
  • 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.18

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • 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
  • 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.5


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.19
  • Autism and other ASDs develop in childhood and generally are diagnosed by age three.20
  • Autism
    is about four times more common in boys than girls. Girls with the
    disorder, however, tend to have more severe symptoms and greater
    cognitive impairment.19,20

Alzheimer’s Disease

  • AD affects an estimated 4.5 million Americans. The number of Americans with AD has more than doubled since 1980.21
  • AD is the most common cause of dementia among people age 65 and older.22
  • 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.23 Rare, inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease can strike individuals as early as their 30s and 40s.24
  • From the time of diagnosis, people with AD survive about half as long as those of similar age without dementia.25
For More Information

Mental Health Information and Organizations from NLM‘s MedlinePlus (en Español).


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Kessler RC, Berglund PA, Demler O, Jin R, Walters EE. Lifetime
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Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Koretz D, Merikangas KR, Rush
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10. Weissman MM, Bland RC, Canino GJ, et al. Prevalence of suicide ideation and suicide attempts in nine countries. Psychological Medicine, 1999; 29(1): 9-17.

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National Institute of Mental Health