Dr. Ramin Mojtabai of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and colleagues reviewed data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey and found the prevalence of self-reported mental health disability increased from 2 percent of the non-elderly adult population from 1997 to 1999 to 2.7 percent from 2007 to 2009.
Mojtabai said during the same 10-year study period the prevalence of disability attributed to other chronic conditions decreased, while the prevalence of significant mental distress remained unchanged.
Mojtabai said the increase equates to nearly 2 million disabled adults. He also noted the increase in the prevalence of mental health disability was mainly among individuals with significant psychological distress who did not use mental health services in the past year.
The researchers reviewed data involving 312,364 adults ages 18-64.
The findings showed 3.2 percent of participants reported not receiving mental healthcare for financial reasons between 2007 and 2009, compared with 2 percent from 1997 to 1999, Mojtabai said.
"These findings highlight the need for improved access to mental health services in our communities and for better integration of these services with primary care delivery," Mojtabai said in a statement. "While the trend in self-reported mental health disability is clear, the causes of this trend are not well understood."
The findings are to appear in the November edition of the American Journal of Public Health.