Citing joblessness and substance abuse, the National Institutes of Health estimates that nearly 20 percent of Americans had mental illness in 2009.
Nearly one in five Americans endured some form of mental illness in 2009, and lingering unemployment is a key factor, says a report by the U.S. National Institutes of Health's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Younger adults, aged 18 to 25, experienced the greatest composition of mentally ill - at roughly 30 percent - while those aged 50 and older were estimated at nearly 14 percent.
"Too many Americans are not getting the help they need and opportunities to prevent and intervene early are being missed," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said in a statement. "The consequences for individuals, families and communities can be devastating. If left untreated mental illnesses can result in disability, substance abuse, suicides, lost productivity, and family discord."
2009 was a year that was largely defined by the meltdown of the American economy, and unemployment nationally has stubbornly remained at just under 10 percent throughout 2010 as well.
The economic conditions and poor job prospects have also led 6.1 million mentally ill adults to neglect treatment due to concerns that they could not afford to buy the appropriate medicines, according to SAMHSA.
In tracking trends in mental health, it appears that macroeconomic and national issues play a considerable role. A report released earlier this year examines the factors that have led to certain medicinal allocations in treating mental illness. In the 1950's and 1960's, there was a great deal of concern over the possibility of nuclear war - and the resulting popular treatment for those experiencing mental illness was in the form of anti-anxiety drugs. Throughout the 1980's, there emerged a strong criticism on the widespread use of tranquilizers, and by the 1990's depression became the prevailing illness to treat - and the Prozac era emerged.
Depression remains the lead condition in American mental illness. 15 million Americans experienced "major depression" in 2009, according to the NIH report. Unemployment is a considerable factor here as well - as 10 percent of the unemployed had experienced major depression.