A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry evaluated retrospective and cross-sectional surveys of reported statistics of mental health disorders and compared those results with reports of physical disorders. Interviews of 1071 adults who participated in the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey which included a series of interviews that spanned a period of 24 years, revealed that participants dramatically underreported mental health problems compared to physical complaints. Mental health disorder categories included: major depressive disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder; panic disorder; social phobia; alcohol abuse or dependence and drug abuse or dependence. The physical disorders reviewed included: diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, stroke, and cancer. These were much more accurately reported.
The authors suggest that possibly the stigma associated with mental illness could be a factor and conclude that “population surveys may consistently underestimate the lifetime prevalence of mental disorders. The population burden of mental disorders may therefore be substantially higher than previously appreciated.”