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Percentage of Americans Receiving Mental Health Treatment Rose during Pandemic, New NCHS Data Brief Shows



The percentage of US adults who had received any mental health treatment in the past year increased by nearly 5% from 2019 to 2021, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Findings showed that from 2019 to 2021, the percentage of adults who had received any mental health treatment increased from 19.2% to 21.6%. This was largely driven by an increase in mental health treatment for younger adults aged 18-44 years, whose rates rose from 18.5% in 2019 to 23.2% in 2021.

"Previous research has found that symptoms of an anxiety disorder or a depressive disorder increased from 2020 through the beginning of 2021, especially among younger adults," wrote coauthors Emily P. Terlizzi, MPH, and Jeannine S. Schiller, MPH, from the NCHS in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Terlizzi and Schiller examined trends in the percentage of adults aged 18-44 years who had received any mental health treatment—defined as having either taken medication for mental health, received counseling or therapy, or both in the past 12 months— by selected characteristics based on data from the 2019–2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Estimates for adults aged 45-64 years and ≥65 years were presented for comparison.

Investigators noted that mental health treatment rates did not change significantly between 2019 and 2021 for adults aged 45-64 years (20.2% vs 21.2%) and those aged ≥65 years (19.4% vs 18.9%).

They also found that women were more likely than men to have received any mental health treatment for each year:

  • 2019: 23.8% of women vs 13.1% of men
  • 2020: 26% of women vs 15.8% of men
  • 2021: 28.6% of women vs 17.8% of men

When the data were broken down by race, the percentage of adults who had received any mental health treatment increased among non-Hispanic White (23.8% in 2019 to 30.4% in 2021) and non-Hispanic Asian (6.0% in 2019 to 10.8% in 2021) adults. The percentage of non-Hispanic Black adults who had received any mental health treatment was lower in 2019 (12.4%) than in 2020 (17.0%) and 2021 (14.8%), according to the NCHS Data Brief.

Also, researchers found that the percentage of adults who had received any mental health treatment in the past 12 months increased regardless of urbanization level in the past few years. The percentage of adults who had received treatment increased from 2019 to 2021 among those living in large metropolitan areas (from 16.8% to 22.2%), medium or small metropolitan areas (from 21.1% to 24.6%), and nonmetropolitan areas (from 20.0% to 25.2%).

Data from the 2019-2021 NHIS were used for the current analysis, which is a nationally representative household survey conducted continuously throughout the year by NCHS. Interviews are usually conducted in the respondent’s home, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews were conducted via telephone only starting March 2020.

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