Poll: Nearly 3 in 10 U.S. Adults Have Received Mental Health Therapy

Seeing a psychologist or other mental health professional isn't an unusual thing; in fact it's relatively common, according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive® in conjunction with the American Psychological Association. Nearly three in 10 U.S. adults (29 percent) report that they have received treatment or therapy from a psychologist or other mental health professional. The survey also found that younger adults are more open to seeking mental health treatment than those over 50 and that many adults are not discouraged from seeking treatment because of stigma or fear of others finding out.

Among other results of the nationwide study of 2,529 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 7 and 15, 2008, the survey found:

  • Men (28 percent) and women (30 percent) are equally likely to have received treatment or therapy from a psychologist or other mental health professional;
  • Generationally, adults 65 and older are the least likely to have received treatment (17 percent) followed by those 50 to 64 years old (25 percent). Younger adults are more likely to have received therapy, especially those in their 20s (34 percent) and 30s (36 percent); and
  • Financial considerations are the leading barrier to receiving care, either through lack of insurance coverage (52 percent) or concerns over cost (42 percent).

The most common reason people seek treatment--mentioned by nearly six in 10 adults (59 percent)--is depression and anxiety. In fact, nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) who had received treatment in the past cited depression and anxiety as a reason they might seek treatment in the future. Other common reasons for which people would consider seeking therapy include trauma and post-traumatic stress (42 percent), relationship problems with family members or others (37 percent), grieving for a loved one (35 percent), and stress that causes physical problems such as stomach or back pain (30 percent). The reasons for seeking treatment differ by gender and age. Women are more likely than men to consider therapy for trauma (47 percent vs. 36 percent), family, or relationship problems (40 percent vs. 33 percent) and grieving for a loved one (42 percent vs. 28 percent). Older adults (65 and above) are the least likely to have received therapy, yet they are most likely to consider it for help adjusting and recovering after a serious injury or medical procedure (35 percent). They are also as likely as younger adults to consider treatment when grieving for a loved one (38 percent).

When asked to consider why they or others might not seek treatment from a mental health professional, responses fell into two main categories--lack of knowledge about the process and access to care. Two-thirds (68 percent) of those surveyed mentioned one or more factors related to a basic lack of understanding about the treatment process itself--lack of confidence in the outcome (34 percent), lack of knowledge about how to find the right professional (31 percent), or not knowing if it's appropriate to seek help (28 percent). Sixty-seven percent of respondents cited access to care as a reason why they or others might not seek treatment, with half (52 percent) noting cost and 42 percent reporting lack of insurance.

"It's a paradox of sorts that therapy for mental health has become commonplace and rather normal, even though a sizeable proportion of Americans say it's either difficult to afford, or hard to understand how it works," said Dr. Richard Millard, Harris Interactive group president. Full data tables and methodology for this study can be found at www.harrisinteractive.com.

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