US Leads in Mental Illness
but lags in treatment
One-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a "serious" disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day, according to the largest and most detailed survey of the nation's mental health, published yesterday.
Although parallel studies in 27 other countries are not yet complete, the new numbers suggest that the United States is poised to rank No. 1 globally for mental illness, researchers said.
"We lead the world in a lot of good things, but we're also leaders in this one particular domain that we'd rather not be," said Ronald Kessler, the Harvard professor of health care policy who led the effort, called the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.
The exhaustive government-sponsored effort, based on in-depth interviews with more than 9,000 randomly selected Americans, finds that the prevalence of U.S. mental illness has remained roughly flat in the past decade -- a possible glimmer of hope given that previous decades had suggested the rates were gradually rising.
But the rest of the news from the survey -- which did not include some of the most serious disorders, such as schizophrenia, for which patients are often institutionalized -- is mostly discouraging.
Less than half of those in need get treated. Those who seek treatment typically do so after a decade or more of delays, during which time they are likely to develop additional problems. And the treatment they receive is usually inadequate.
I suspect lifestyle pressures to be the chief culprit: cultural perceptions v reality, inadequate nutrition, lack of excercise, the relentlessness of the pressure to acquire (new house, new car, gadgets) not commensurate with income, etc.