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1 in 6 Americans suffer from a mental illness

We're All Affected by Mental Illness


Recently, we decided to research the prevalence of mental illness in the United States population. Luckily, the U.S. Government provides a generous amount of information on mental illness. We looked at the share of any mental illness across age, gender, and poverty level. In 2015, 43.4 million Americans were diagnosed with a mental illness[1]. That's 1 in 6 people; about 1 person in every other family[2]. In every community, mental illness has an impact.

Mental Illness & Age

People make a lot of assumptions about mental illness and age. Generally, people think mental illness affects the old more than the young. We were surprised to find that assumption is wrong. If you were younger than 50, you may have been more likely to have a mental illness diagnosis in 2015. People over 50 are at greatest risk for Alzheimer’s and Dementia[3], yet represent the smallest age group with any reported mental illness.

Mental Illness Prevalence By Age (2015)

Mental Illness & Gender

Across gender, there appears to be a greater proportion of women than men with any mental illness. While this may be the reality, it has been reported that women are more likely to seek treatment than men[4], possibly skewing the numbers on who actually has mental illness across genders. This data is based on surveys of self reported mental illness. If men are less likely to seek or receive a diagnosis, its possible they're also less likely to self report mental health concerns.

Mental Illness Prevalence by Gender (2015)

Mental Illness & Poverty Level

Overwhelmingly, mental illness impacts the poorest members of society – meaning people with an income below the poverty line, which is as low as $11,367[5]. As income goes up, mental illness in the population shrinks. About 1 in 3 people (31.2%) with an income below the poverty line had a mental illness in 2015. This is a major share of people!

Mental Illness by Poverty Level (2015)


We initially researched this to learn how big of a problem mental illness is in the US, objectively. Mental illness is very prevelant in our country and more people should be aware of it. More people should be working towards treatments and solutions. Behind all these numbers and graphs are real people struggling with their mental health. Mental illness affects us all and we owe it to ourselves and our communities to learn more about it.


  1. Any Mental Illness in Past Year among Persons Aged 18 or Older, by Gender and Detailed Age Category: Numbers in Thousands, 2014 and 2015 ↩︎

  2. Number of people per household in the United States from 1960 to 2015 ↩︎

  3. Assessing Risk for Alzheimer's Disease ↩︎

  4. Gender and self-reported mental health problems: predictors of help-seeking from a general practitioner ↩︎

  5. Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015 ↩︎