Disparities in unmet need for mental health services in the United States, 1997-2010

Psychiatr Serv. 2013 Jan;64(1):80-2. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201200071.


Objectives: This study estimated unmet need for mental health services, identified population risk factors related to unmet need, and established baseline data to assess the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

Methods: National Health Interview Survey data (1997-2010) were analyzed.

Results: Unmet need increased from 4.3 million in 1997 to 7.2 million in 2010. Rates in 2010 were about five times higher for uninsured than for privately insured persons. In a multivariate logistic model, likelihood was higher among children (age two to 17), working-age adults (age 18-64), women, uninsured persons, persons with low incomes, in fair or poor health, and with chronic conditions.

Conclusions: Unmet need is widespread, particularly among the uninsured. Expansion of coverage under the ACA, in conjunction with federal parity, should improve access, but ongoing monitoring of access is a research and policy priority.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Health Surveys
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Healthcare Disparities / trends
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Insurance, Health
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • United States
  • Young Adult