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Mental Health Disabilities in U.S. on the Rise: Study

TUESDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The number of Americans who say they suffer from mental health disabilities has jumped significantly over the past decade, a new study shows.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found the prevalence of self-reported mental health disability rose from 2 percent between 1997 and 1999 to 2.7 percent between 2007 and 2009. The increase amounts to nearly 2 million disabled adults, the study noted.

"These findings highlight the need for improved access to mental health services in our communities and for better integration of these services with primary care delivery," said Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, an associate professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a university news release. "While the trend in self-reported mental health disability is clear, the causes of this trend are not well understood."

In conducting the study, researchers examined information collected in the U.S. National Health Interview Survey involving 312,364 adults ranging in age from 18 to 64.

The increase in adults reporting mental health disabilities was mainly among people with significant psychological distress who did not seek out mental health services in the past year and in people who also reported disabilities related to other chronic conditions, the study noted.

Financial hardship may be to blame for lack of treatment. The number of people who did not receive mental health care due to financial reasons increased from 2 percent between 1997 and 1999 to 3.2 percent 10 years later, the researchers said.

The study was reported online Sept. 22 ahead of print publication in the American Journal of Public Health.

Fewer adults reported disability related to other chronic conditions than 10 years earlier, while roughly the same number experienced significant psychological distress at the start and end of the decade.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health provides statistics on mental health problems in the United States.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, Sept. 23, 2011

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