The burden of mental illness in the United States

homelessFrom today’s NEJM, a report from Christopher Murray and colleagues summarizing the disability and loss of life attributable to diseases across the world.

Murray and colleagues have a table summarizing these data for the United States in 2010. There is a widespread but mistaken belief that mental illness affects your happiness, but it isn’t really about health.

That’s a mistake. Murray and his colleagues added up all the time that Americans were disabled in 2010, by disorder. Major depressive disorder was the second leading cause of disability-years in America. Anxiety disorders were fifth and drug-use disorders were seventh.

The authors do not discuss major depressive disorder as a cause of death. That’s a bit misleading, because mental illness in general and MDD in particular is the leading cause of suicide. Suicide was the sixteenth leading cause of death and the sixth in the total years of life lost.

I’ve said it before:

Mental illness isn’t just about happiness. Mental illness kills.


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