An Overview of the Nation’s Behavioral Health

By: Beth Han, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

For the past four years, SAMHSA has issued the Behavioral Health Barometer as a snapshot of the nation’s behavioral health. The Barometer is a unique compilation of facts and figures on issues such as substance use, serious mental illness, serious thoughts of suicide, and related treatment. The findings are broken down into major groups according to age, gender, racial and ethnic categories, income, and access to health insurance.

What does the Barometer tell us? For starters, it shows the national annual prevalence of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use. In 2015, about 12.5 million persons aged 12 and over reported misusing prescription pain relievers, and about 828,000 reported using heroin. The Barometer also shows an increase in receipt of medication-assisted treatments for opioid use. From 2011 to 2015, the number of individuals who received methadone as part of their substance use treatment increased by about 16 percent from 306,440 to 356,843, and the number who received buprenorphine at outpatient treatment facilities more than doubled from 32,676 to 75,724.

The Barometer also shows trends in an array of mental health issues and related treatment. For example, it shows a significant increase in the national annual prevalence of major depressive episodes among adolescents aged 12 to 17, which rose from 8.2 percent in 2011 to 12.5 percent in 2015.
This report can also be viewed as a snapshot of the nation’s behavioral health needs. The data analysis can help the behavioral health care providers determine how to meet these needs. Likewise, policymakers can identify solutions to reduce the gaps among various groups.

The indicators included in the Barometer are measured through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), which are sponsored by SAMHSA. To learn more about the NSDUH and N-SSATS and related SAMHSA reports, please visit:

Download the Behavioral Health Barometer, United States, Volume 4

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