Far fewer people suffer from mental disorders requiring treatment than was initially indicated by two national surveys, according to a reanalysis of them. However, some researchers argue that the revision understates the reach of serious mental illnesses in the U.S. population at large.
"Establishing the clinical significance of mental disorders in the community is crucial for estimating treatment need," say psychiatric epidemiologist William E. Narrow of the American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education in Washington, D.C., and his colleagues. The outcome of this scientific debate is almost certain to influence political efforts aimed at expanding insurance coverage for mental illness.
Narrow and his coworkers probed the responses of 20,861 individuals surveyed from 1980 to 1985 and 8,098 volunteers interviewed between 1990 and 1992