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Mental Health & Illness by the Numbers

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Global Statistics

While humans are unique, we find commonalities in the challenges we face and the ways in which we respond. Unsurprisingly, the multitude of stressors we manage on a daily basis has an impact on our mental health. Micro level challenges like employment and parenting struggles to macro level issues like a global pandemic and war have exacted a significant toll. Perhaps then it's not shocking to learn that the World Health Organization (WHO) found that, globally, approximately 1in 8 individuals live with mental illness (as defined by "significant disturbances in thinking, emotional regulation, or behavior"). To state that in another way, 970 million people struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. Unfortunately, the issue continues to worsen as we have seen a steady rise in declining mental health in the last 50 years. In 2020, WHO reported a significant increase (25%) in anxiety and depression reports. While anxiety is the most common form of mental illness (affecting approximately 301 million people), WHO found that "depression is one of the leading causes of disability". In addition to causing significant impairments in the present, multiple studies have found that untreated mental illness can limit an individual's life by as much as 10 to 20 years.

Mental Health in the United States

Mental health statistics are even more alarming in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found in 2021 that 1 in 5 US adults were struggling with mental illness. Of those 57.8 million Americans, less than 50% (47.2% or 26.5 million) sought out the essential mental health care treatment and support they needed.

Mental Health in the Work Place

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that mental illness can significantly impact job performance and productivity. WHO found that, globally, approximately 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety. This equates to $1 trillion per year in lost productivity - it is estimated that the US losses $100 billion! Unsurprisingly, individuals struggling with mental illness were found to have higher rates of unemployment and disabilities.

How can we better address mental illness and promote better mental health?

Thankfully, effective treatments are available for mental illness and reports indicate that approximately 70-90% of people who invest in treatment have a decrease in symptoms and an improvement in overall quality of life. These treatments may include medication and psychotherapies. Working with trained professionals can help an individual identify triggers and maladaptive thinking and behavioral patterns that can ultimately strengthen internal fortitude. In conjunction with coping and emotional distress tolerance skills development, individuals can work to reduce the psychological distress and ultimately live happier, healthier lives.

It is important to develop a robust list of coping strategies to manage life's stressors when trying to improve or stabilize our mental health. Generating a catalog of self-care techniques to implement in response to mental health challenges is vital. Examples include: walking, running, exercising in general, spending time with a family member, reading a good book or listening to a podcast, getting a massage, or grabbing dinner and drinks with a friend. We know that chronic distress can increase our risk for mental illness so a small investment in this type of wellness program can go a long way in circumventing more acute health outcomes.

Throughout this post, I have been selective in my word choice in referencing mental health and illness. This is because I believe mental illness to be a multitude of diseases or conditions that impacts a large subset of the population, while mental health is an important issue that effects everyone. Ultimately, though better education and advocacy, I hope we can reduce the stigma around mental illness and treatment, while creating more awareness around the fact that MENTAL HEALTH is a topic that impacts us all!


  • Globally, 1in 8 individuals live with a mental health disorder compared to the US' 1 in 5.

  • 970 million people, 57.8 million being Americans, struggle with mental illness and substance abuse

  • Anxiety (301 million) and depression (280 million) are the leading forms of mental illness in the world

  • Less than 50% of Americans who are struggling with mental illness seek essential treatment

  • 12 billion working days and $1 trillion of productivity are lost each year in the world due to mental illness

  • 70-90% of individuals who seek treatment for mental illness report a decrease in symptoms and improved quality of life

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness or poor mental health, please reach out to a trained professional. I am currently offering in-person and telehealth therapy to both new and existing clients, and we can work together to help you live your healthiest life.

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