Overall, mental illness affects both women and men equally and about half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental disorder over the course of their lives.1 However, types of mental disorders vary with sex. Women are more likely than men to experience an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression, while men are more likely than women to experience an impulse-control or substance use disorder.
A major depressive episode is defined according to the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a period of 2 weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image. In 2009, an estimated 9.6 million women aged 18 years and older, comprising 8.2 percent of that population, reported experiencing a major depressive episode in the past year, compared to 5.2 million or 4.8 percent of men. Although women were more likely than men to experience a past-year major depressive episode, men were twice as likely as women to experience a past-year substance use disorder (12.5 versus 6.0 percent, respectively).
Suicide accounts for more than 30,000 deaths in the United States each year and is the third leading cause of death for women and men aged 18–35 years.2 The overwhelming majority of suicides are accompanied by mental illness. While completed suicide is more common among men than women, women tend to have more nonfatal suicide attempts.3 In 2007, the age-adjusted suicide death rate was 6.1 per 100,000 women aged 18 and older, compared to 24.1 per 100,000 men of the same age. By contrast, the age-adjusted rate of self-inflicted non-fatal injury was higher among women than men (162 versus 131 per 100,000 population). Among both men and women, suicide rates are highest for non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Natives. Treatment of mental illness and suicidal behavior through psychotherapy and medication can help to prevent suicide.3,4
1 Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2005;62(6):593-602.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. WISQARS: Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Accessed 04/01/11.
3 Nock MK, Borges G, Bromet EJ, Cha CB, Kessler RC, Lee S. Suicide and Suicidal Behavior. Epidemiologic Reviews. 2008;30:133-154.
4 National Institute of Mental Health. Suicide Prevention. Accessed 04/01/11.
|Mental Illness||Percent of Adults|
| *A past year major depressive episode is defined as a period of 2 weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.
**Past year substance use disorder defined as abuse or dependence on alcohol or illicit drugs; abuse relates to social problems due to substance use, such as problems with work, family, or the law; dependence relates to health and emotional problems, such as tolerance or withdrawal.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2009 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Accessed 04/01/11.
|Major Depressive Episode||8.2||4.8||6.5|
|Substance Use Disorder||6.0||12.5||9.2|
|Race/Ethnicity||Rate per 100,000 Adults|
| *Age-adjusted to the 2000 population distribution.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Accessed 04/01/11.
|Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native||7.6||30.7|
|Non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander||4.6||11.5|