CDC Finds Mental Distress on the Rise in US

According to a poll conducted by the CDC between 2003 and 2006, Americans reported increased feelings of stress, depression, or emotional problems for 14 or more days out of 30–an indication of clinical depression and anxiety disorder. The responses were compared to a previous poll from 12.2 million adults, surveyed from 1993 to 2001, finding an increase from 9% to10%. Lead study author Daniel P. Chapman, PhD says, "Frequent mental distress [provides] a general barometer of the 'psychiatric state' of the nation," in an interview with Medscape Psychiatry.

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, conducted by the CDC, has been ongoing since 1984. The survey includes one question regarding mental health, targeting adults from all states. Focus from the CDC regarding geographical regions that report higher incidence of frequent mental distress, might provide insight into socioeconomic factors that provoke anxiety and depression. The CDC designed the study to look at the health impact of depression as it relates to stroke and obesity.

The newest study failed to reveal a link to any particular geographic location, confounding previous studies showing that people of lower socioeconomic status are twice more likely to become depressed than those with higher income. .

The results showed that people residing in 23 states, and the District of Columbia, reported very little change in stress levels from the first study. Dr. Chapman says, “The next step is to look for economic, household, health, or other factors that might explain these disparities."

The survey showed that people living in Hawaii were the least likely to experience frequent episodes of mental distress, with South Dakota coming in second. The highest incidence, found over 2 time periods had been the “stroke belt”, in the Mississippi and Appalachian Valley.

The findings were presented at the American Psychiatric Association 60th Institute on Psychiatric Services.

Source: American Psychiatric Association 60th Institute on Psychiatric Services: Poster 68. Presented October 3, 2008.


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