10 Surprising Mental Health And Counseling Statistics

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being that enables the public to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community”.

The ability to receive emotional and physical health care, find the resources you need, and connect with those who can support you through challenges may all be essential for strong mental health. Counseling and therapy might also be useful resources for navigating stress and finding healthy, sustainable ways to care for your well-being. This article will explore 10 counseling and mental health statistics as well as the use of therapy as a potentially valuable mental health resource. 

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10 mental health and counseling statistics that may surprise you

  1. As of 2021, an estimated 57.8 million adults in the United States were living with a mental health condition.

    This includes mental health conditions diagnosable either at the time or within the past year. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a mental illness in this context can have a mild, moderate, or severe impact. 

  2. Of those 57.8 million adults, an estimated 14.1 million experienced serious mental illnesses. The National Institute of Mental Health defines a serious mental illness as “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities”.

  3. Among those with mental health conditions, an estimated 26.5 million adults received mental health services in 2021—more of whom were women than men. The National Institute of Mental Health defines “mental health serviecs” as including inpatient or outpatient treatment or counseling as well as prescription medication for the treatment of mental health conditions. 

  4. Among adults living with mental health conditions in the U.S., 54.7% do not receive mental health treatment. Untreated mental illness makes up more than half of the instances of mental illness in the U.S., according to details gathered by the nonprofit Mental Health America. 

  5. At least one in four older adults experiences a form of mental illness. Those who are part of an older age group may also be vulnerable to mental health concerns. According to the United Nations’ Pan American Health Organization, at least one in four seniors and older adults experiences some form of mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or dementia (i.e., impairment of thinking, memory, and decision-making).

  6. Mental illness is statistically more likely than cancer. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that more than 80 percent of people will develop a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives. This makes a mental health diagnosis more likely than a diagnosis of cancer, which has a likelihood of around 50 percent, according to the NHS.  

  7. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health conditions in the world. The World Health Organization reports that as of 2019, more than 300 million people were living with some form of anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental illness. Meanwhile, 280 million people were living with depression. 

  8. The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a significant increase in depression and anxiety disorders. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people living with depressive disorders and anxiety increased by 28% and 26%, respectively, between 2019 and 2020, which has been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  9. In 2023, the cost of health treatment deterred more than one in five adults who experienced 14 or more days of low mental health from seeing a doctor. According to the nonprofit Mental Health America, 22.87% of adults who experienced at least 14 mentally unhealthy days each month were unable to see a doctor due to costs.

  10. Around 75% of people who receive therapy benefit from it in some way. According to the American Psychological Association, about three-quarters of those who attend psychotherapy benefit from it, while the average person who receives therapy is better off after treatment than 80% of those who don’t. 


Supporting your mental health with therapy

The above statistics may provide a glimpse into mental health-related topics and issues at a population level. However, you may be curious as to how these issues affect individuals like yourself. 

A variety of strategies may be useful for those interested in working to strengthen their mental health, ranging from practicing self-care to maintaining healthy social relationships. Therapy is another such strategy. It is aimed at helping individuals explore their thoughts and emotions and develop the skills to navigate life’s challenges in a healthy, constructive way. A variety of types of therapy exist. Some are designed for treating specific mental health conditions, and others are usable in more general contexts. The wide range of treatment modalities available may make therapy a flexible way of getting mental health care, guidance, and advice.

Even so, traditional talk therapy may not always be convenient, especially for people living in nonmetropolitan areas. For those with busy schedules or mental health conditions that can make it difficult to leave the house (such as anxiety and depression), commuting in-person to a therapist’s office can be challenging. In these cases, online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp may offer a potential alternative. With remote therapy, you can attend sessions from wherever it is most convenient. Those in need of additional mental health support may also find that the ability to message health professionals at any time makes this an appealing alternative to in-person therapy. 

The benefits of online therapy have been demonstrated in a variety of scientific studies. One such study found internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy to be effective at treating various mental health conditions, including depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and more. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

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Mental health may be defined as one’s overall mental well-being and ability to navigate life’s challenges. Annual studies have found that millions of adults are estimated to experience mental health conditions worldwide. Anxiety and depressive disorders may be some of the most common. A variety of treatments exist for mental health concerns, ranging from prescription medication to therapy. Therapeutic interventions, including online therapy, are estimated to be beneficial for approximately 75% of people. If you are interested in starting your therapy journey, you can get matched with a licensed counselor online.
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