Number of Americans with mental illness grows as healthcare access shrinks – study

Monday, April 17, 2017
By Paul Martin
17 Apr, 2017

More Americans are suffering from serious psychological distress than in the past decades, according to a new study. But as the demand for mental healthcare becomes greater, such services are actually deteriorating.

Scientists from New York University’s Langone Medical Center analyzed adults aged 18 to 64 from the 2006-2014 National Health Interview Survey. They were examined on 11 indicators, including insufficient money for mental healthcare and having seen a mental health provider.

The research was published in the journal Psychiatric Services on Monday.

Following the analysis, the researchers concluded that 3.4 percent (more than 8.3 million) of adult Americans suffer from serious psychological distress (SPD), which is defined as feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and restlessness which are hazardous enough to impair a person’s physical well-being.

That number is significant, as it represents a rise from previous survey estimates, which put the number of Americans suffering from SPD at 3 percent or less.

Despite the apparent rise in SPD sufferers, however, healthcare access to address the condition was found to have decreased over the course of the analyzed surveys.

After comparing SPD symptoms from 2006 to 2014, the team estimated that nearly one in 10 distressed Americans (9.5 percent) did not have health insurance that would give them access to a psychiatrist or counselor in 2014. This represented a rise from 2006, when 9 percent lacked any insurance.

A rise was also noted when it came to delays associated with professional help due to insufficient mental health coverage, with 10.5 percent experiencing such delays in 2014. That was compared to 9.5 percent who said they experienced delays in 2006.

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