Study finds mental illness increasing over past decade with fewer treatment options

A medical study published Monday shows that more American adults than ever are living with significant “psychological distress”, but have been treated at a declining rate over the past decade.

Researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, who documented their findings in the medical journal Psychiatric Services, found that over 8.3 million people in the U.S. age 18–64 have overlapping symptoms of depression and anxiety that could eventually cause themselves physical damage.

The study also determined that those with “significant psychological distress” have had less access to healthcare over the past decade, as 9.5 percent of those suffering from mental illness in the U.S. didn’t have insurance coverage for psychiatric care in 2014, compared to nine percent in 2006.  Nearly 10 percent of those with SPD in 2014 couldn’t afford psychiatric prescription medication, up from 8.7 percent eight years prior.

The findings, based on data from the CDC’s annual National Health Interview Survey, may partially explain why America’s suicide rate has increased dramatically since 1999 to its highest level since 1986.  In 2014, 13 out of every 100,000 Americans committed suicide, up 24 percent since a year before the turn of the century.

“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 and life expectancy,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Judith Weissman.

The demographics of SPD and suicide are also changing in America, as more women and middle-age adults are suffering from mental illness at higher rates compared to one and two decades ago, as well as lower income and less educated citizens.

Pessimistically, Dr. Weissman also surmised there are less mental health professionals currently available to treat a growing population with more psychological stress than in previous eras.

“The trends seem to be diverging,” she said. “Poor mental health is increasing and the number of mental health providers cannot keep up.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the increased suicide rate has been most prevalent among women age 45–64, but also rose across virtually all demographic groups.

Despite the increase in self-inflicted deaths over the past three decades, the all-time high U.S. suicide rate was set during the Great Depression in 1932, when more than 22 out of every 100,000 Americans killed themselves.

 

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