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Nearly 23% of American adults faced mental illness issues in 2021, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).[1]

Young adults, adults aged 18–25, women, and unemployed and part-time workers reported higher rates of mental illness over the past year in 2021 compared to other groups in SAMHSA’s survey.[2]

SAMHSA runs an annual survey that collects mental health information and predicts the prevalence of mental health conditions using a statistical model. The survey includes phobias, psychotic symptoms, anorexia, and bulimia, as well as obsessive-compulsive, post-traumatic stress, adjustment, bipolar, and panic disorders.

How does current American mental health compare to pre-COVID-19?

SAMHSA estimates of Americans with mental illness were trending upward before the pandemic, from 18% in 2008 to 21% in 2019. Young people had the largest percentage point increase during that period, with the rate among adults ages 18–25 rising from 19% to 29%.

During the pandemic in 2021, the rate of young people (18–25) with mental illness rose to 33.7%. However, SAMHSA notes that 2021’s survey results aren’t comparable to previous years due to changes in data collection methodology.

Percentage of adults with mental illness

After SAMHSA implemented new data collection methods in 2021, it reported that 23% of adults dealt with mental illness. Over one-third of adults below the age of 25 had a mental illness in 2021.

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Percent of people who experienced a major depressive episode in the past year by age group

SAMHSA reported that 8% of Americans experienced a major depressive episode in 2021 — 6% of men and 10% of women.

Younger people also experienced major depression at a higher rate: over 20% of adolescents ages 12–17 experienced an episode in 2021.

The gap between the prevalence of major depression among younger people versus all age groups has been increasing since at least 2005, when SAMHSA began collecting data. In 2005, the percentage of people ages 12–17 who had experienced a depressive episode was 2.2 percentage points higher than adults over 18. In 2019, it was 8 percentage points higher.

Did anxiety and depression increase during the pandemic?

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the trend of a growing number of Americans dealing with mental illness symptoms. In a March 2021 SAMHSA press announcement, Tom Coderre, then-acting assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, said, “We know multiple stressors during the pandemic — isolation, sickness, grief, job loss, food instability and loss of routines — have devastated many Americans and presented unprecedented challenges for behavioral health providers across the nation.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted a 30% increase in overdose deaths in 2020 compared to 2019 and cited depression, stress, and anxiety as possible factors contributing to this increase.

Furthermore, the percentage of Americans reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 35.9% to 42.4% between April and December 2020, according to another measure of mental health in America — the Household Pulse Survey.

Percentage of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, 2020–2023

The Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics created the Household Pulse Survey to track the well-being of Americans during the pandemic. The survey began at the start of the pandemic, so there is no directly comparable pre-pandemic data. However, it does provide recent insights into the status of Americans’ mental health.

The first round of the Household Pulse Survey closed in May 2020, with 35.9% of adults reporting symptoms consistent with an anxiety or depression diagnosis. In October 2023, five months after the pandemic officially ended, a slightly smaller percentage of adults reported symptoms consistent with anxiety or depression at 33.5%.

Rates peaked at 42.6% in November 2020 and, despite some fluctuations, have decreased since then.[3]

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Which groups suffer more from anxiety and depression?

Some demographics reported higher rates of anxiety and depression than others — including young adults, women, multi-racial Americans, and people without a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Younger Americans reported the highest rates of anxiety and depression symptoms, with rates decreasing for each subsequent age group. In the most recent round of the Household Pulse Survey from October 2023, over 48.4% of Americans ages 18–29 reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. People 80 or older reported the lowest percentage at 18.8%.

How does mental health vary by gender?

Since the Household Pulse Survey began in 2020, women have consistently reported higher rates of symptoms related to anxiety or depression in every round. In October 2023, 36.4% of women had symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared to 30.5% of men.

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The gender gap in rates of anxiety is larger than that for depression. As of October 2023, 32.7% of women and 24.4% of men reported anxiety symptoms, whereas 23.3% of women and 21.6% of men reported symptoms of depression.

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Hispanic and Black Americans reported the highest rates of anxiety and depression in 2023

In October 2023, about 40% of non-Hispanic multi-racial adults reported the highest rates of anxiety or depression. Around 35.4% of Hispanic Americans and 35.7% of non-Hispanic Black Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared to 33% of non-Hispanic white Americans and 22.8% of Asian Americans.

Hispanic and Black Americans have faced higher death rates from COVID-19 and the highest unemployment rates throughout the pandemic.

Asian Americans, who reported increases in anxiety and depression symptoms in the late summer of 2020 and early 2023 in the Pulse survey, also experienced prejudice and increased hate crimes during the pandemic.

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Percentage of American adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression by highest level of educational attainment

People with bachelor’s degrees report the fewest mental health challenges. In October 2023, about 25% of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher reported anxiety or depression symptoms. The rate was 37% for adults with a high school diploma or less.

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If you are struggling with mental health issues, call the SAMHSA National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) — a free, confidential, 24/7, year-round treatment referral and information service. Or, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, immediately tell someone who can help and call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Learn more about the role that schools play in addressing youth mental health, the mental health of queer teens, and get the data directly in your inbox by signing up for our email newsletter.

National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Household Pulse Survey

Awareness and stigma play a role in statistics on mental health. These figures reflect the extent to which people are willing to share symptoms of mental health illness, which may have shifted over time.


2021 is not comparable to previous years because of changes in the survey methodology.


From April 2020 to July 2021, the question reference period was "during the last 7 days." In July 2021, the question reference period changed to "during the last two weeks."