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U.S. Nonelderly Mental Health Disability Up 1997 to 2009

More so in adults with disability due to chronic cause, psych distress but no mental health care

THURSDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Self-reported mental health disability in nonelderly U.S. adults has increased slightly from 1997 to 2009, especially among adults who reported disability due to other chronic conditions and a greater level of psychological distress but who had no contact with mental health professionals over the past year, according to a study published online Sept. 22 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Ramin Mojtabai, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, investigated trends in mental health disability and their correlation with physical disabilities and psychological distress. Time trends in self-reported disability due to mental health conditions, disability attributed to other chronic problems, and significant psychological distress were assessed in 312,364 patients between the ages of 18 and 64 years from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey between 1997 and 2009.

The investigator found that self-reported mental health disability increased from 2.0 percent in 1997-1999 to 2.7 percent in 2007-2009, an increase of nearly two million disabled adults. Disability due to other chronic conditions declined and there was no appreciable change in significant psychological distress. Adults who reported disability due to other chronic conditions or significant psychological distress but who had no mental health contacts in the past year had more pronounced change in self-reported mental health disability.

"These findings highlight the need for improved access to mental health services in the community and for better integration of these services with primary care," the author writes.

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