Study: More Americans Than Ever Have Serious Mental Illnesses but Fewer Can Get Help

A study finds an increasing number of Americans live with serious mental issues and their access to healthcare is getting worse.


A new study raises alarms about the rising amount of people suffering from mental illnesses in the U.S. and the many who are not getting the care they need. Researchers found that more than 8.3 million adult Americans (or 3.4% of the population) are battling serious psychological distress (or SPD).

The study, carried out by researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center, analyzed a federal health database, looking at 200,000 participants of surveys from 2006 to 2014.

The CDC, which manages the surveys, defines SPD as a combination of emotional states like sadness, worthlessness and restlessness that severely affect a person, requiring treatment. 

The number of people impacted by mental illness appears to be rising, with previous surveys putting the figure at 3% or less, and their access to healthcare is getting worse.  

“Although our analysis does not give concrete reasons why mental health services are diminishing, it could be from shortages in professional help, increased costs of care not covered by insurance, the great recession, and other reasons worthy of further investigation,” said the study’s lead investigator Dr. Judith Weissman.

The study specifically points to how the poor with mental issues are often prevented from getting treatment. People with SPD are three times more likely to be unable to afford general health care. Similarly, Weissman found that 9.5% of people needing help did not have the kind of insurance that would give them access to a psychiatrist. Around 10% had delays getting help due to mental health coverage issues or could not afford to pay for necessary medications.

“Based on our data, we estimate that millions of Americans have a level of emotional functioning that leads to lower quality of life and life expectancy,” said Dr. Weissman. “Our study may also help explain why the U.S. suicide rate is up to 43,000 people each year.”

She pointed out that access to treatment for mental illnesses deteriorated despite implementation of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 and Obamacare’s provisions for increasing medical coverage in such cases. It also bears noting that in its current form, the American Health Care Act aka Trumpcare could result in loss of coverage of over a million people dealing with mental illnesses.

In Weissman’s opinion, the recession from 2007 to 2009 probably contributed to the worsening mental health picture. Many people who needed care got left behind and are still paying the price. 

“There is this generation of middle aged adults that are really suffering right now and if policies change, if we increase access to mental health care and we increase coverage for mental health care, we can save the next generation,” she added.

Overall, there's an estimated 43.4 million adults (18+) in the U.S. who live with some form of mental illness. This is according to 2015 stats from the National Institute of Mental Health. That's about 17.9% of all American adults.

You can read the study here, in the journal Psychiatric Services.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Forget "text neck." New research suggests humans are growing horns.

Three academic papers from Australia shows sizable bone spurs growing at the base of our skulls.

Surprising Science
  • A team of researchers in Queensland says 33% of the Australian population has sizable bone spurs growing at the base of their skulls.
  • This postural deformity, enthesophytes, results in chronic headaches and upper back and neck pain.
  • The likelihood humans will alter their addiction to this technology is low, so this might be a major consequence of technology.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists turn nuclear waste into diamond batteries

They'll reportedly last for thousands of years. This technology may someday power spacecraft, satellites, high-flying drones, and pacemakers.

Woman looking at a diamond.
popular

Nuclear energy is carbon free, which makes it an attractive and practical alternative to fossil fuels, as it doesn't contribute to global warming. We also have the infrastructure for it already in place. It's nuclear waste that makes fission bad for the environment. And it lasts for so long, some isotopes for thousands of years. Nuclear fuel is comprised of ceramic pellets of uranium-235 placed within metal rods. After fission takes place, two radioactive isotopes are left over: cesium-137 and strontium-90.

Keep reading Show less

Facebook finally unveils its cryptocurrency. What we know about Libra so far.

Facebook was careful to say that Libra is not maintained internally and is instead serviced by a non-profit collective of companies.

Technology & Innovation
  • Facebook has just announced its new cryptocurrency, Libra.
  • Early investors include many of the world's leading companies, implying they will accept Libra as payment
  • The announcement was met with a mixed response, but only time will tell how Libra will be received
Keep reading Show less