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Women's Health USA 2013 An illustrated collection of current and historical data, published annually.

Mental Illness

Narrative

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, specific types of mental disorders vary by sex. For instance, women are more likely than men to experience an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression, while men are more likely to experience an impulse-control or substance use disorder.

A major depressive episode (MDE) is defined as a period of 2 weeks or longer during which an individual experiences either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep or eating.2 In 2009–2011, an estimated 9.9 million women aged 18 years and older, comprising 8.5 percent of that population, reported experiencing an MDE in the past year, compared to 5.5 million, or 4.9 percent of, men.

The prevalence of past-year MDE varied by race and ethnicity. Among women, for example, non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic multiracial women were most likely to report experiencing past year MDE (9.6 and 10.9 percent, respectively), while non-Hispanic Asian women were least likely to do so (4.6 percent). Past-year MDE was also more common among women below retirement age, affecting 9 to 11 percent of women under age 65, compared to 2.7 percent of women aged 65 and older (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Although women were more likely than men to experience a past-year MDE, men were nearly twice as likely as women to experience a past-year substance use disorder (11.9 versus 6.0 percent, respectively). Substance use disorder encompasses both abuse and dependence on alcohol or illicit drugs.3 Women who experienced past year MDE were three times as likely to report a substance use disorder than those who did not (15.8 versus 5.0 percent, respectively), while men who experienced a past-year MDE were nearly 2.5 times as likely as their non-affected counterparts to report a substance use disorder (26.3 versus 11.1 percent, respectively).

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 U.S. Department of Agriculture link leaves hrsa.gov site, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services link leaves hrsa.gov site. Dietary Guidelines for Americans link leaves hrsa.gov site, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2010. Accessed 09/20/13.

3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration link leaves hrsa.gov site, Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings, NSDUH Series H-45, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4725. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012.

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Graphs

Data

Past-Year Major Depressive Episode* Among Adults Aged 18 and Older, by Race/Ethnicity** and Sex, 2009-2011
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Adults, Female Percent of Adults, Male
*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 4 other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.
**The sample of non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders was too small to produce reliable results.
Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009-2011. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2013-06-20. doi:10.3886/ICPSR34481.v2. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.
Non-Hispanic White 9.6 5.5
Non-Hispanic Black 7.1 3.6
Hispanic 6.5 3.8
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 6.4 7.5
Non-Hispanic Asian 4.6 2.1
Non-Hispanic Multiple Race 10.9 8.7
Total 8.5 4.9
Past-Year Substance Use Disorder,* by Sex and Past-Year Major Depressive Episode,** 2009–2011
Age Group Percent of Adults, Major Depressive Episode Percent of Adults, No Major Depressive Episode Percent of Adults, Total
*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; all estimates are age-adjusted.
**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 and eating.
Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009-2011. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2013-06-20. doi:10.3886/ICPSR34481.v2. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.
Female 15.8 5.0 6.0
Male 26.3 11.1 11.9