New federal data highlights continuing mental health and substance use problems in the United States and the barriers to getting help.

In November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released results from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NDUH). According to the survey, almost one in four U.S. adults reported having a mental illness in 2022, while one in five adolescents reported a major depressive episode. Thirteen percent of adolescents and 5% of adults reported having serious thoughts of suicide.

Meanwhile, more than 40% of adolescents who experienced a major depressive episode in 2022 and just under half of adults with a mental health issue did not receive the mental health treatment they needed in 2022.

When it comes to substance use disorders, nearly 49 million people in the U.S. ages 12 and older – more than 1 in 6 – reported having a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2022, one in 12 experienced both mental illness and substance use disorder. However, only 4.6% of the 19.4% of those aged 12 or older who were classified as needing SUD treatment got it.

It should be noted, a fair number of the people who needed help in 2022, did not seek it out. The survey identified several distinct barriers including the individuals’ perception that they could handle the problem on their own, affordability, and lack of resources and time. For example, for mental health, a large majority (73.4%) of adults who had a mental illness (AMI) and didn’t get treatment said they didn’t need it; 4.1% of those who didn’t get mental health treatment did seek it but didn’t get it, while about 22.4% of those that didn’t get treatment thought they needed it. Meanwhile, nearly all adults (94.7%) who did not get SUD treatment didn’t think they needed it.

Other key findings from 2022 NSDUH report:

  • Among people aged 12 or older in 2022, 59.8% (or 168.7 million people) used tobacco products, vaped nicotine, used alcohol, or used an illicit drug in the past month (also defined as “current use”), including 48.7% (or 137.4 million people) who drank alcohol, 18.1% (or 50.9 million people) who used tobacco products, 8.3% (or 23.5 million people) who vaped nicotine, and 16.5% (or 46.6 million people) who used an illicit drug.
  • In 2022, 70.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 24.9%) used illicit drugs in the past year. Marijuana was the most used illicit drug, with 22.0% of people aged 12 or older (or 61.9 million people) using it in the past year.
  • In 2022, 48.7 million people aged 12 or older (or 17.3%) had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year, including 29.5 million who had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), 27.2 million who had a drug use disorder (DUD), and 8.0 million people who had both an AUD and a DUD.
  • In 2022, almost 1 in 4 adults aged 18 or older had any mental illness (AMI) in the past year (59.3 million or 23.1%).
  • Among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2022, 19.5% (or 4.8 million people) had a past year major depressive episode (MDE).
  • 1 in 20 adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (13.2 million or 5.2%), 1.5% (or 3.8 million people) made a suicide plan, and 0.6% (or 1.6 million people) attempted suicide in the past year.
  • Over 1 in 8 adolescents aged 12 to 17 had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (13.4% or 3.4 million adolescents), 1 in 15 made any suicide plans (6.5% or 1.7 million adolescents), and nearly 1 in 25 (3.7% or 953,000 adolescents) attempted suicide in the past year.