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National Patterns of Frequent Mental Distress Vary Widely

Last Updated: April 15, 2009.

The prevalence of frequent mental distress has remained consistently high or low in some geographic areas of the United States, but others show substantial shifts since the early 1990s, according to a report published online April 14 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of frequent mental distress has remained consistently high or low in some geographic areas of the United States, but others show substantial shifts since the early 1990s, according to a report published online April 14 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

David G. Moriarty, and colleagues at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, analyzed data from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System on 2.4 million adults covering 1993 to 2001 and 2003 to 2006 to assess the geographic distribution of frequent mental distress.

The researchers defined frequent mental distress as at least 14 mentally unhealthy days within the previous 30 days, and found that the average adult prevalence of frequent mental distress ranged from 6.6 percent in Hawaii to 14.4 percent in Kentucky, with the national average at 9.4 percent. The prevalence of frequent mental distress was both high and rising in the Appalachian and the Mississippi Valley Regions, and Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia recorded a more than 4 percent increase in prevalence from 1993-2001 to 2003-2006, the investigators found.

"Because frequent mental distress often indicates potentially unmet health and social service needs, programs for public health, community mental health, and social services whose jurisdictions include areas with high frequent mental distress levels should collaborate to identify and eliminate the specific preventable sources of this distress," the authors write.

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