I'm trying to look for historical rates of depression, anxiety or any mental illness really for America, going back from 1980 to present. Even if the data is spotty, like every 5 years, if it's from the same source that would be my ideal.

I've tried regular Google, and the Google Dataset search engine, which has taken me to the CDC, NIMH and the SAMHSA NSDUH, but they only have 1-4 years of consecutive data at best. Searching Opendata didn't help either.

I don't have SPSS and I don't know how to use R. So data in those formats won't help me. I am a Perl programmer so I can parse textual data well enough.

Does anyone have any ideas on where to get this?


  • Data for America.
  • Historical prevalence data for depression, anxiety, or any mental illness, from 1980 to the present. An earlier starting date is ok.
  • Data should be from the same source even if it is only every 5 years or so. Data from different sources are not comparable as this data will be graphed.

EDIT: I've marked one as an answer, but as always, more suggestions are always good to peruse. Oh, and thanks for adding a couple of tags, Mystery User.

  • from my brief experience in this field, I think CDC and SAMHSA NSDUH are going to be your best bet. There are some pretty easy ways to convert SPSS and R data to CSV for use in Excel/etc. Have you found anything specific that looks promising? Commented May 15, 2016 at 17:37

4 Answers 4


The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) publishes a report called Health, United States each year and the following link includes links to PDFs and XLS files that are relevant to Mental Health: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus/mentalhealth.htm

The following seem most promising for you and are available from that page and its linked resources:

  • Table 80: "Percent of population with at least one prescription drug in drug class in past 30 days" (1988-2012, by age group and gender); for "antidepressants" and "anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics"
  • Table 110: Medicaid/CHIP % of beneficiaries using a mental health facility, percent of $ distributions, and payment per beneficiary (1999-2012)
  • Table 46: "Serious psychological distress in the past 30 days among adults aged 18 and over" by percent of adults affected by a serious psychological distress (1997-2014 by age, sex, race, poverty level, geographic region, and in/out of a MSA)

Edit 1: Also, this 2014 report from SAMHSA NSDUH has trend data from 2008 to 2014 -- better than nothing! http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.htm#idtextanchor073

  • Thank you Skram. The page you gave me to the CDC has xls files available with a ton of information about people on all kinds of drugs, which is helpful with my long-term (personal) research. And the years the XLS files covers are in groups of years, starting about 1988. I'm not just looking for mental illness issues, but inflammatory issues. There have been some studies (from NIH/PMC) that seem to indicate SOME cases of mental illnesses are triggered by inflammatory events or exposure to environmental poisons at critical stages of growth.
    – Bulrush
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 22:38

In addition to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) data they have information on BRFFS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) that has a wide range of publications and resources on Mental Health:

  1. MMWR Surveillance Summaries (i.e. Surveillance for Certain Health Behaviors Among Selected Local Areas — United States, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002)

  2. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Annual Survey Data (i.e. BRFSS 1984 Survey Data and Documentation)


This datasets shed a different light on both anxiety and depression as they show the disease burden per 100000 people, unluckily they only go back to 1990 when the measurement was established but I hope you find them useful: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/daly-rates-from-anxiety-disorders-by-age?country=~USA https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/depression-daly-rates-by-age?country=~USA


This book by Insel titled, "Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health," has great statistics starting from the 1950's onwards. The book has useful figures about all types of mental illness, and is a great overview of mental health challenges in the United States.

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