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

Function Navigation

Bookmark and Share

Mental Illness

Mental illness affects both sexes, although many types of mental disorders are more prevalent among women.1 For instance, in 2008, 33.7 percent of women and 22.4 percent of men reported ever having had depression. Similarly, 23.0 percent of women reported ever experiencing generalized anxiety, compared to 15.3 percent of men. Women were also nearly twice as likely as men to report ever having had panic disorder (10.3 versus 5.5 percent, respectively; data not shown).

Among women, lifetime prevalence of depression and generalized anxiety varies with race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native women and non-Hispanic women of multiple races were most likely to report having experienced depression (40.0 percent each), followed by non-Hispanic White women (36.5 percent). Non-Hispanic Asian women were least likely to have experienced depression (17.4 percent).

Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native women were also most likely to report having had generalized anxiety (35.3 percent), followed by non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic women of multiple races (25.8 and 25.3 percent, respectively). Non-Hispanic Asian and non-Hispanic Black women were least likely to report having experienced generalized anxiety (11.6 and 15.7 percent, respectively).

Women who have experienced depression and generalized anxiety are more likely than women without those conditions to be limited in their activities — such as walking or climbing, relaxing, or attending social events — and to engage in health risk behaviors such as cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol use. More than half of women who reported having had depression or anxiety also reported current activity limitations, compared to about 30 percent of women who hadn’t experienced these conditions. Similarly, more than 27 percent of women who experienced depression and anxiety were current smokers, nearly twice the proportion of women who had never experienced these conditions.

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.

Back to Top