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Many More Americans Taking Drugs for Mental Illness

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Among the Findings:
  • As of 2006, 16 percent of adults 65 and older had some form of mental health diagnosis and this number is sure to climb as large baby boomer population is entering fifties, sixties and seventies; years where age related mental illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer's increase.

  • 73 percent more American adults are using drugs to treat mental illness now than were doing so in 1996.

  • Among adults over 65, use of so-called psychotropic drugs -- which include antipsychotics, antidepressants and Alzheimer's medicines doubled between 1996 and 2006.

  • The study found the number of children diagnosed and treated for mental health conditions by their primary care doctor doubled between 1996 and 2006.

  • Expanded drug coverage under Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly, and the State Children's Health Insurance Program for poor children, helped make such drugs more affordable

  • Treatment for older adults with mental limitations who need help dressing, eating, or bathing fell between 1996 and 2006.

Mental Health Coverage Future Not so Rosy

While the study shows expanded mental health coverage for people with insurance, especially for those covered in government health plans, the ongoing recession and swelling ranks of the uninsured will likely mean less mental health coverage for many Americans in the near future.

"New policies are desperately needed to reduce the flow of people whose primary problem is a mental disorder into the criminal justice system," wrote Sherry Glied of Columbia University and colleague Richard Frank of Harvard Medical School.

The findings come from several surveys from the National Center for Health Statistics, the Social Security Administration, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Substance Abuse and the Mental Health Services Administration.


  • Health Affairs (Project Hope) May-June 2009; 28(3):637-48
  • Reuters May 5, 2009
Last modified on Thursday, 03 December 2009 15:07
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