September 21, 2022
Nearly one in four U.S. adults aged 18-44 has received mental health treatment in the past 12 months, a significant increase over previous years. In 2019, 19% of the same demographic received mental health care; that percentage rose to 23% in 2021, according to the 2019–2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).1 The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the survey.
In comparison, a recent ADDitude survey found that nearly three-quarters (72%) of readers aged 18-44 received mental health treatment within the last two to three years. Of those respondents, more than one-third (36%) sought or received mental health care for the first time during the pandemic and 73% said they are currently receiving mental health treatment.
The NHIS survey defined “receiving mental healthcare” as getting counseling or therapy or taking prescription medication for anxiety, depression, concentration, behavior, or other emotions in the past 12 months. The ADDitude survey did not explicitly define mental health care and asked respondents to report on their experiences over the last two or three years.
The NHIS survey found that women aged 18-44 were more likely than men to have received any mental health treatment. In 2021, the survey found that more than one in four women (29%) received mental health care compared with less than one in five men (18%). Likewise, 73.19% of female ADDitude survey respondents said they are currently receiving mental health care, compared to 65.79% of male respondents.
Young white American adults received the most mental health care in 2021 (30%), according to the CDC. Rates were much lower among young Black adults (15%), Hispanics (13%), and Asians (11%). Despite reporting the lowest rate of mental health care, Asian people experienced one of the largest increases in treatment between 2019 and 2021 (from 6% to 11%), the NHIS survey found.
More than half of the ADDitude survey respondents (60%) said they found it difficult or very difficult to secure mental health care, including receiving an evaluation, diagnosis, and/or treatment. The top five reported barriers to mental health care included the following:
- 64%: time (e.g., long wait lists)
- 61%: scheduling and appointments
- 60%: cost
- 45%: insurance
- 44%: accessibility (e.g., no local providers)
Most ADDitude readers who received mental health treatments and interventions used medication (85%). More than half said they used vitamins or supplements (62%), individual therapy (58%), exercise (54%), or mindfulness (51%) to treat mental health issues.
Mindfulness was considered helpful to very helpful by approximately 84% of people who used it. Seventy percent of respondents reported that medication and exercise were very helpful or helpful, and roughly 60% said they found individual therapy very helpful or helpful. Less than half (40%) found vitamins or supplements very helpful or helpful.
1Terlizzi EP, Schiller JS.(2022). Mental health treatment among adults aged 18–44: United States, 2019–2021.NCHS Data Brief, no 444. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:120293