Science Says More Americans Are Miserable Than Ever

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
More and more Americans are experiencing mental health problems — and yet, access to treatment for those problems is dwindling.
According to a new study, more than 8.3 million adults in the U.S. suffered from severe psychological distress, or SPD, in 2014 — roughly 3.4%. Almost a decade earlier, that number was 3%.
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The study, published in the journal Psychiatric Services, found that while more of us than ever are suffering from mental distress, the country's ability to meet the demand for mental health services is declining.
According to the CDC, "severe psychological distress" refers to mental health problems that are severe enough to cause impairment in functioning and to require treatment.
For the study, researchers at New York University's Langone Medical Center analyzed a survey that studied more than 200,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 64, in all states and across ethnic and socioeconomic groups. In doing so, they found that as levels of distress rose, access to health care services dwindled for those suffering from severe distress when compared to those who didn't report SPD.
Judith Weissman, lead author of the study and a research manager at New York University's Langone Medical Center, said in a press statement that this could be attributed to the recession and higher costs of mental health care.
"Although our analysis does not give concrete reasons why mental health services are diminishing, it could be from shortages in professional help, increased costs of care not covered by insurance, the great recession, and other reasons worthy of further investigation," she said.
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"Based on our data, we estimate that millions of Americans have a level of emotional functioning that leads to lower quality of life and life expectancy," she added. "Our study may also help explain why the U.S. suicide rate is up to 43,000 people each year."
While we've come a long way in acknowledging that mental health is a part of overall well-being, as this study shows, we've still got work to do when it comes to treating mental health problems and distress.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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