U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Mental Illness

Mental illness affects both sexes, although many types of mental disorders are more prevalent among women.1 For instance, in 2007, 13.3 percent of women and 8.1 percent of men reported experiencing frequent depression in the past year. Similarly, 13.0 percent of women reported experiencing frequent anxiety, compared to 8.6 percent of men (data not shown).

Among women, rates of frequent depression and anxiety increase with age up to age 64, but then decrease. More than 15 percent of women aged 45–64 years experienced frequent depression, compared to 12.8 percent of those aged 25–44 years and 9.6 percent of those aged 18– 24. Similarly, women aged 45–64 years were more likely than women of other ages to experience frequent anxiety (14.7 percent).

Frequent depression and anxiety among women decrease as household income increases. In 2007, women with incomes of less than 100 percent of the poverty level were most likely to have experienced frequent depression or anxiety (25.1 and 22.4 percent, respectively), followed by women with incomes of 100–199 percent of poverty (18.3 and 17.9 percent, respectively). Women with incomes of 400 percent or more of poverty were least likely to have reported experiencing frequent depression or anxiety in the past year (7.8 and 9.2 percent, respectively).

Although most people who suffer from mental illness do not intentionally injure themselves, mental illness is a major risk factor for self-inflicted injury. In 2003–2005, 13.7 per 10,000 emergency department (ED) visits were for self-inflicted injuries. The rate of emergency department visits due to self-inflicted injury was higher for females than males (16.2 versus 11.3 per 10,000 ED visits, respectively; data not shown).2

Research suggests that women suffering from chronic diseases such as heart disease may be more likely than men to suffer major depression, increasing the risk of mortality and morbidity.3

1 Kessler RC, Berglund PA, 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. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003 Jun;62(6):593-602.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Health Data Interactive. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey -- Emergency Department, 2003-2005. http://205.207.175.93/HDI/TableViewer/tableView. aspx?ReportId=55, accessed 02/17/09.
2 Naqvi TZ, Naqvi SS, Merz CN. Gender Differences in the Link Between Depression and Cardiovascular Disease. Psychosomatic Medicine. May 2005; 67 Suppl 1:S15-8. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text. Ipswich, MA. Accessed 3/27/09.

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