Skip directly to searchSkip directly to the site navigationSkip directly to the page's main content

Mental Health

Mental health refers to a persons's psychological and emotional well-being. Depression is a common mental disorder and a significant - perhaps the largest - contributor to years lived with disability. Depression is strongly related to social determinants such as education, employment and income, and is often associated with other chronic disorders, both mental (such as anxiety and substance use disorders) and physical (such as heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes and chronic pain). Depression is also an important risk factor for suicide.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there is "no health without mental health." and "Mental health refers to a broad array of activities directly or indirectly related to the mental well-being component." It is part of the WHO's definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease. It is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
  1. WHO. Mental health: facing the challenges, building solutions. Report from the WHO European Ministerial Conference. Copenhagen, Denmark: WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2005.
  2. Healthy People 2020, accessed on 8/11/2014 from

Why It's Important

Mental health is an integral aspect of well-being and is essential for maintaining healthy family and interpersonal relationships, and enables an individual to live a full and productive life. Globally and in the U.S. mental health has the highest burden of all diseases. Mental health disorders also have a serious impact on physical health and are associated with the prevalence, progression, and outcome of some of today's most pressing chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They have long-lasting effects that not only include high psychosocial and economic costs for people living with the disorder, but also for their families, schools, workplaces, and communities.
  1. Healthy People 2020, accessed on 8/11/2014 from
  2. Prince M, Patel V, Saxena S, Maj M, Maselko J, Phillips MR, Rahman A. Global Mental Health 1 - No health without mental health. Lancet. 2007 September 4. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61238-0.

What Is Known

Evidence suggests that mental disorder is independently associated with a substantial excess in all-cause mortality risk. A meta-analysis of 15 population-based studies found that depression diagnosis was linked with subsequent all-cause mortality, and yielded a pooled odds ratio (OR) of 1.7 (95% CI 1.5-2.0). Research has shown that depression and other mental health conditions are associated with an increased prevalence of chronic diseases. Evidence has shown that mental health disorders, most often depression, are strongly associated with the risk, occurrence, management, progression, and outcome of serious chronic diseases and health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and cancer. The association is a complex self-propagating interrelationship between chronic disease and mental illness.
  1. Prince M, Patel V, Saxena S, Maj M, Maselko J, Phillips MR, Rahman A. Global Mental Health 1 - No health without mental health. Lancet. 2007 September 4. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61238-0.
  2. See footnote 5.
  3. Chapman DP, Perry GS, Strine TW. The vital link between chronic disease and depressive disorders. Prev Chronic Dis. 2005 Jan;2(1):A14. Epub 2004 Dec 15.

Who Is at Risk

Mental health disorders are a concern for people of all ages (children to older adults) and are associated with age, gender, education, income level, race and ethnicity, geographical location and sexual orientation. The clearest evidence seen for risk of mental health has been with indicators of poverty, including low levels of education.
  1. Prince M, Patel V, Saxena S, Maj M, Maselko J, Phillips MR, Rahman A. Global Mental Health 1 - No health without mental health. Lancet. 2007 September 4. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61238-0.
  2. Healthy People 2020, accessed on 8/11/2014 from

How To Reduce Risk

Mental health promotion involves actions to create living conditions and environments that support mental health and allow people to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles.

Protective factors include individual, familial, and societal factors and can vary based on age and location. For a detailed description see:

How It's Tracked

Mental Health data can be obtained from both mortality as well as morbidity data sources:
  • Mortality data provides data on deaths due to suicides, mental disorders and illness.
  • Prevalence data comes from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.
  • Hospital inpatient discharge data (HIDD) and emergency department (ED) visits relating to mental health disorders.
  • Treatment Episode Datasets (TEDS) can also be accessed from Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). TEDS provides information on the demographic and substance abuse characteristics of the 1.8 million annual admissions to treatment for abuse of alcohol and drugs in facilities that report to individual State administrative data systems. TEDS is an admission-based system, and TEDS admissions do not represent individuals. Thus, for example, an individual admitted to treatment twice within a calendar year would be counted as two admissions. TEDS does not include all admissions to substance abuse treatment. It includes admissions to facilities that are licensed or certified by the State substance abuse agency to provide substance abuse treatment (or are administratively tracked for other reasons). In general, facilities reporting TEDS data are those that receive State alcohol and/or drug agency funds (including federal block grants) for the provision of alcohol and/or drug treatment services.