The burden of mental illness in the United States is among the highest of all diseases, and mental disorders are among the most common causes of disability. Recent figures suggest that, in 2004, approximately 1 in 4 adults in the United States had a mental health disorder in the past year1—most commonly anxiety or depression—and 1 in 17 had a serious mental illness. Mental health disorders also affect children and adolescents at an increasingly alarming rate; in 2010, 1 in 5 children in the United States had a mental health disorder, most commonly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is not unusual for either adults or children to have more than one mental health disorder.
Mental health is essential to a person’s well-being, healthy family and interpersonal relationships, and the ability to live a full and productive life. People, including children and adolescents, with untreated mental health disorders are at high risk for many unhealthy and unsafe behaviors, including alcohol or drug abuse, violent or self-destructive behavior, and suicide—the 11th leading cause of death in the United States for all age groups and the second leading cause of death among people age 25 to 34.
Mental health disorders also have a serious impact on physical health and are associated with the prevalence, progression, and outcome of some of today’s most pressing chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Mental health disorders can have harmful and long-lasting effects—including high psychosocial and economic costs—not only for people living with the disorder, but also for their families, schools, workplaces, and communities.
Fortunately, a number of mental health disorders can be treated effectively, and prevention of mental health disorders is a growing area of research and practice. Early diagnosis and treatment can decrease the disease burden of mental health disorders as well as associated chronic diseases. Assessing and addressing mental health remains important to ensure that all Americans lead longer, healthier lives.
The Mental Health Leading Health Indicators are:
Health Impact of Mental Health
Mental health and physical health are inextricably linked. Evidence has shown that mental health disorders—most often depression—are strongly associated with the risk, occurrence, management, progression, and outcome of serious chronic diseases and health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease,2, 3 and cancer.4, 5 This association appears to be caused by mental health disorders that precede chronic disease; chronic disease can intensify the symptoms of mental health disorders—in effect creating a cycle of poor health.5 This cycle decreases a person’s ability to participate in the treatment of and recovery from mental health disorders and chronic disease. Therefore, while efforts are underway to reduce the burden of death and disability caused by chronic disease in the United States, simultaneously improving mental health nationwide is critical to improving the health of all Americans.
1Reeves WC, Strine TW, Pratt LA, et al. Mental illness surveillance among adults in the United States. MMWR. 2011;60(3):1–32. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6003a1.htm?s_cid=su6003a1_w
2Jonas BS, Franks P, Ingram DD. Are symptoms of anxiety and depression risk factors for hypertension? Arch Fam Med. 1997;6:43–49.
3Jonas BS, Mussolino ME. Symptoms of depression as a prospective risk factor for stroke. Psychosom Med. 2000;62:463–471.
4Division of Adult and Community Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public Health Action Plan To Integrate Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention with Chronic Disease Prevention, 2011–2015. Atlanta, GA: 2011. Available from http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/docs/11_220990_Sturgis_MHMIActionPlan_FINAL-Web_tag508.pdf [PDF - 829KB]
5Chapman DP, Perry GS, Strine TW. The vital link between chronic disease and depressive disorders. Preventing Chronic Disease. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2005. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2005/jan/04_0066.htm
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