Serious Psychological Distress Among Adults: United States, 2009–2013

Serious psychological distress includes mental health problems severe enough to cause moderate-to-serious impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning and to require treatment.

Data from the 2009–2013 National Health Interview Survey are used to estimate the prevalence of serious psychological distress—measured by a score of 13 or greater on the Kessler 6 (K6) nonspecific distress scale—among adults overall and by demographic characteristics. The K6 obtains information on the frequency of six psychological distress symptoms.

A new NCHS report also compares health insurance and health characteristics between those with and those without serious psychological distress.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • In every age group, women were more likely to have serious psychological distress than men.
  • Among all adults, as income increased, the percentage with serious psychological distress decreased.
  • Adults aged 18–64 with serious psychological distress were more likely to be uninsured (30.4%) than adults without serious psychological distress (20.5%).
  • More than one-quarter of adults aged 65 and over with serious psychological distress (27.3%) had limitations in activities of daily living.
  • Adults with serious psychological distress were more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and diabetes than adults without serious psychological distress.
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