Mental Disorders Strike about Half of U.S
Bower, Blair Burns, Science News
Far more people suffer from mental disorders than previously assumed, according to a national survey published in the January ARCHIVES OF GENERAL PSYCHIATRY. In fact, nearly one in two adults experienced a mental disorder at some time in his or her life, and almost one in three suffered from one during the previous year.
The survey, the most comprehensive look at the mental health of U.S. citizens to date, finds that roughly one-sixth of the population grapples with three or more mental disorders over the course of their lives. These people tend to sink further and further into psychological turmoil. They accounted for a majority of lifetime mental conditions reported by the national sample and an even greater proportion of disorders cited for the prior year.
"Really serious conditions that demanded immediate treatment affected 3 percent to 5 percent of our sample," asserts study director Ronald C. Kessler, a sociologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "These people typically had developed several mental disorders over time, not just one disorder that suddenly appeared."
Most individuals who had experienced a mental disorder managed to function adequately at work and home despite their symptoms and to recover on their own, Kessler notes.
The findings come from interviews conducted between 1990 and 1992 with a nationally representative sample of 8,098 people age 15 to 54. Unlike surveys that reported a lower prevalence of mental disorders (SN: 2/27/93, p.134), the new study employs the latest official psychiatric diagnoses and has obtained a broad array of data on each participant's family and social circumstances. …