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A quarter of adults diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime

ยท New results from major national survey looks for the first time at mental health experiences of over 5,000 adults

15 January 2016

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

Regional data are available

One in four adults (26 per cent) surveyed as part of the Health Survey for England (HSE) said they had been diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime3 according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Over 5,0004 adults were asked about their mental health experiences as part of the nurse visit in the annual HSE, which has been running for two decades.

The survey also found:

  • Depression (including post-natal depression) was the most frequently reported diagnosed mental illness, with nearly one in five participants (19 per cent) saying they had received this diagnosis at some time .
  • More women than men reported that they had ever been diagnosed with depression (including post-natal depression); 24 per cent of women compared to 13 per cent of men.
  • Half of the men and women who reported ever being diagnosed with a common mental disorder5 said that they had experienced the condition in the last 12 months, while a further six per cent of men and seven per cent of women reported having taken medication or having had therapy for a common mental disorder but not having experienced it in the last 12 months.
  • Two fifths of respondents (40 per cent of men and 39 per cent of women) who had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness also said that they had a limiting long standing6 physical or mental illness. Among respondents who had never been diagnosed with a mental illness 16 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women reported having a limiting long standing illness.
  • Adults were also asked if they had ever self-harmed or attempted suicide, overall:
    • Three per cent of men and five per cent of women reported they had self- harmed7.
    • Four per cent of men and seven per cent of women reported suicide attempts.

The HSE also estimates that among the adult population in England in 2014:

  • Rates of ever being diagnosed with a common mental disorder were higher among women at 31 per cent than men at 17 per cent.
  • Men and women (27 and 42 per cent respectively) living in lower income households were more likely to have ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, compared with men and women in the highest income bracket8 (15 per and 25 per cent respectively).

Responsible statistician Alison Neave said:

"The survey shows that one in four adults have experienced some form of diagnosed mental illness in their lifetime. We hope that these new data will be useful to commissioners of mental health services."

Read the report covering this topic here: .

Key England statistics about health measures and behaviours for adults and children from 2014 and many earlier years are at


Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 260 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.
  2. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.
  3. Participants were defined as having ever had a diagnosed mental illness if they reported that they had ever experienced one of a list of 16 mental illnesses or a final category of 'any other mental, emotional or neurological problem or condition' and reported that this condition had been diagnosed by a doctor, psychiatrist or other professional. This reflects lifetime experience of mental illness and not all conditions were currently experienced.
  4. The questions were asked during the nurse visits of the 2014 Health Survey for England and 5,491 adults had a nurse visit.
  5. Common mental disorders include phobia, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, generalised anxiety disorder, depression (including post-natal depression) and obsessive compulsive disorder.
  6. Longstanding illness is defined as any physical or mental health condition or illness lasting or expected to last 12 months or more. If a longstanding illness reduces participants' ability to carry out day-to-day activities, either a little or a lot, it is considered a limiting longstanding illness.
  7. Self-harm was defined as deliberately harming oneself but not with the intention of killing.
  8. Income brackets are defined as equivalised household income quintiles. Household income is collected and adjusted to take account of the number of persons in the household. All individuals in each household were allocated to the equivalised household income quintile to which their household had been allocated. The highest bracket is the highest quintile i.e. the highest 20 per cent. The lowest income bracket is the lowest quintile i.e. the lowest 20 per cent. See section 8.5.3 in Methods volume of the 2014 report for more details.
  9. For media enquiries please contact or 0300 30 33 888.
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