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Mental Health

Mental Health Across the Life Stages

Mental health disorders are a concern for people of all ages, from early childhood through old age.

Children and Adolescents

  • Approximately 20% of U.S. children and adolescents are affected by mental health disorders during their lifetime. Often, symptoms of anxiety disorders emerge by age 6, behavior disorders by age 11, mood disorders by age 13, and substance use disorders by age 15.6
  • 15% of high school students have seriously considered suicide, and 7% have attempted to take their own life.7
  • Mental health disorders among children and adolescents can lead to school failure, alcohol or other drug abuse, family discord, violence, and suicide.8


  • It is estimated that only about 17% of U.S. adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health.1
  • An estimated 26% of Americans age 18 and older are living with a mental health disorder in any given year, and 46% will have a mental health disorder over the course of their lifetime.1
  • Almost 15% of women who recently gave birth reported symptoms of postpartum depression.1

Older Adults

  • Alzheimer’s disease is among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. It is the 6th leading cause of death among American adults and the 5th leading cause of death for adults age 65 years and older.9
  • Among nursing home residents, 18.7% of people age 65 to 74, and 23.5% of people age 85 and older have reported mental illness.1

Determinants of Mental Health

Several factors have been linked to mental health, including race and ethnicity, gender, age, income level, education level, sexual orientation, and geographic location. Other social conditions—such as interpersonal, family, and community dynamics, housing quality, social support, employment opportunities, and work and school conditions—can also influence mental health risk and outcomes, both positively and negatively. For example, safe shared places for people to interact, such as parks and churches, can support positive mental health. A better understanding of these factors, how they interact, and their impact is key to improving and maintaining the mental health of all Americans.


1Reeves WC, Strine TW, Pratt LA, et al. Mental illness surveillance among adults in the United States. MMWR. 2011;60(3):1–32. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from

6Merikangas KR, He J, Burstein M, et al. Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adolescents: Results from the National Comorbidity Study–Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2010;49(10):980–989.

7Eaton DK, Kann L, Kinchen S, et al. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2007. Surveillance summaries, June 6. MMWR. 2008;57(SS-4):1–131. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from

8MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Child Mental Health. Bethesda, MD: 2011. Available from

9Healthy Aging Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alzheimer’s Disease. Atlanta, GA: 2011. Available from

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