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Mental Health - Adult Self-reported Mental Distress

Summary Indicator Report Data View Options

In 2017, the NM prevalence of Mental Distress (6+ days) was 20.2%, significantly higher compared to that of the US (18.4%). The NM prevalence has shown a significant upward trend since 2015, while the US prevalence saw a similar trend beginning in 2014.
The prevalence of self-reported Mental Distress was highest among those 18-24 years, declining significantly after age 64. Though the prevalence of Mental Distress among females overall was greater than males, this was especially true for females ages 35-44, who reported a significantly higher prevalence of Mental Distress (30.3%) compared to males ages 35-44 (14.3%).
The prevalence of Mental Distress did not differ meaningfully by race/ethnicity.

Adult Frequent Mental Distress by County, New Mexico, 2021

The prevalence of Mental Distress was highest among those with the lowest household incomes. Residents with an annual household income of less than $15,000 had a significantly higher prevalence of Mental Distress (33.8%) compared to all other income groups. Those with an annual income between $15,000-$49,999 also had a significantly higher prevalence of Mental Distress than those with incomes of $50,000 or greater.
In 2017, unlike previous years, the prevalence of Mental Distress did not differ meaningfully by educational attainment.

Adult Frequent Mental Distress by Health Region, New Mexico, 2021

Adult Frequent Mental Distress by Urban and Rural Counties, New Mexico, 2021

The prevalence of mental distress among respondents who identified as bisexual (41.0%) was significantly higher compared to those who identified as straight (19.4%). For those who identified as lesbian or gay, the prevalence of mental distress was 57% higher than those who identified as straight, while for those who identified as bisexual, the prevalence was more than two times higher.
The prevalence of Mental Distress among Hispanic and White females (25.1% and 22.6%, respectively) was significantly higher than that of Hispanic and White males (17.9% and 15.5%, respectively). The prevalence of Mental Distress was not meaningfully different for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) females compared to males.

Why Is This Important?

Adult mental health issues range in a spectrum from day-to-day challenges with stress, anxiety, and "the blues", to persistent mental health challenges arising from chronic physical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and obesity. to chronic clinically-diagnosable psychiatric morbidities such as anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, to serious life-threatening situations such as suicidal ideation and suicide attempt, which sometimes result from a combination of the mental and physical health challenges mentioned above. A host of measures exist for assessing the mental health status of individuals, but characterizing the mental health status of the population is a relatively new field. If such an assessment can be done using a simple and non-invasive approach with a reasonable level of sensitivity and specificity, the resulting characterization of the population's mental health can help public health and mental health professionals better understand the distribution of mental health issues in the population and design better systems to help identify, address and mitigate these issues before they become more serious. Among measures that have been suggested by the CDC as potential tools for assessing population well-being and mental health is the frequency with which people experience poor mental health. This measure is based on the single question, "How many days during the past 30 days was your mental health not good?" Respondents who report that they experienced 14 or more days when their mental health was "not good" were classified as experiencing "Frequent Mental Distress" ("FMD"). Although FMD is not a clinical diagnosis, evidence suggests that it is associated with a person's mental health status. A 2011 study by Bossarte et al. concluded that 6 or more days of poor mental health ("Mental Distress") could be used as a valid and reliable indicator of generalized mental distress with strong associations to both diagnosable depressive symptomology and serious mental illness.


Percentage of NM residents 18 years or older experiencing "Mental Distress", defined as answering 6 days or more to the question, "Now thinking about your mental health, which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, for how many days during the past 30 days was your mental health NOT good?" These data are from the NM Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a random-digit-dialed telephone survey of adults 18 years and older. It is conducted annually by the NM Department of Health Survey Unit in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Responses are weighted to reflect the general New Mexico adult population by age, sex, ethnicity, geographic region, marital status, education level, home ownership and type of phone ownership.

Data Sources

  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, together with New Mexico Department of Health, Injury and Behavioral Epidemiology Bureau.
  • U.S. data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Prevalence and Trends Data.

How the Measure is Calculated

Numerator:The number of survey respondents who reported "Mental Distress", defined as poor mental health for 6 or more of the past 30 days.
Denominator:Total number of survey respondents except those with missing, "Don't know/Not sure," and "Refused" responses.

How Are We Doing?

Adults with frequent mental distress is associated with increased rates of mental disorders, chronic diseases, and functional limitations.The prevalence of mental distress has increased since 2011.

How Do We Compare With the U.S.?

Since 2011, the NM prevalence has remained relatively stable while the US prevalence has decreased significantly. In 2014, the NM prevalence (18.4%) was significantly higher than the US prevalence (16.7%).

What Is Being Done?

The Department of Health Epidemiology and Response Division conducts ongoing surveillance for indicators of mental health among students and adults in every county of New Mexico. The Human Services Department recently modernized the New Mexico Medicaid system by integrating physical and behavioral health services which will help treat an individual in a more holistic manner.

Evidence-based Practices

For reviews of evidence-based practices, please see: -US Preventive Services Task Force: [] -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Community Guide: [] -Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices: []

Other Objectives

Substance Abuse Epidemiology Report Indicator Mental Health Report Indicator

Available Services

To talk to a counselor or ask questions about treatment 24/7, call the New Mexico Crisis Line: 1-855-NMCRISIS (662-7474) If you would like to seek treatment, please contact: -Network of Care for Behavioral Health [] -SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357), also online at [] -The SKY Center []: 1-505-473-6191 -New Mexico Social Service Resource Directory []: 1-800-432-2080 -SHARE New Mexico Resource Directory: [] -United Way Central New Mexico Referral Service []: 505-245-1735 Resources for veterans and their families: [] To join a support group organized by Optum Health, please register at: []

More Resources

To learn more about BRFSS, please visit: []

Health Program Information

The BRFSS is an ongoing survey of adults regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services. Data are collected in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The survey is conducted using scientific telephone survey methods for landline and cellular phones (landline only from 1986 through 2010; landline and cellular since 2011).

Indicator Data Last Updated On 04/29/2022, Published on 04/07/2023
Mental Health Epidemiology, Epidemiology and Response Division, New Mexico Department of Health, 1190 S. Saint Francis Drive, Room N1320, P.O. Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM, 87502. Contact: telephone at (575) 652-0749 or email to