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article imageStudy: Mental health disability increases in US

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By Kathleen Blanchard     Sep 23, 2011 in Health
Findings from a new report show the number of people living in the U.S. with mental health disability has increased in the last ten years, yet disability from other chronic diseases has declined.
The research, from Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, suggests a need for improved access to mental health services.
Mojtabai said, “While he trend in self-reported mental health disability is clear, the causes of this trend are not well understood.”
The report also found that while disability from mental health has risen and disability from other chronic conditions declined, rates of mental distress remained the same over the past decade.
Mojtabai says better access to mental health services in communities are needed in addition to “better integration of these services with primary care delivery.”
The report comes from an analysis of the U.S. National Health Interview Survey that included 312,364 adults ages 18 to 64 years.
Between 1997 and 1999, 2 percent of people reported mental health disabilities.
From 2007 to 2009 the rate rose to 2.7 percent, which according to the researchers, means there are almost 2 million US adults disabled from mental health disorders.
During the same period, 3.2 percent of the participants said they didn’t get mental health from financial concerns over cost of treatment, compared to 2 percent from 1997 to 1999.
Most of the mental health disability reported was among participants who had not received mental health services in the previous year, but experienced substantial psychological distress.
The Hopkins researcher also found prescriptions for mental health issues has risen 30 percent in the last decade among patients with no psychiatric diagnosis, in a study published August, 2011.
The finding that mental health disabilities are on the increase also follows findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that nearly half of all Americans will suffer from some form of mental health problem during their lifetime.
The new report shows disability from mental health issues has increased in the past decade in the U.S., while disabilities from other chronic diseases have declined. According to the CDC, the cost of treating Americans with mental health issues was $300 billion in 2002. The reason for persistent rates of mental distress and increasing numbers of individuals with mental health disability in the U.S. found in the study remains unclear.
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