In the United States, an estimated 10% of persons have some recent disability from a diagnosable mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia, phobias, depression, and anxiety disorders), and up to 24% of adults have experienced a mental disorder during the preceding year. In 1997, the estimated cost of mental illness exceeded $150 billion for treatment, social services, disability payments, lost productivity, and premature mortality. However, information is limited about the overall prevalence of general mental distress, which can be associated with the incidence and prevalence of specific mental illnesses and conditions. This report describes differences in the prevalence of self-reported frequent mental distress (FMD) for noninstitutionalized adults in the United States for specific demographic groups and by state and age-sex group using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for 1993-1996. The findings indicate high prevalences of FMD among persons who are unemployed or unable to work, indicated a "separated" or "widowed" marital status, or had annual household incomes of <$15,000.