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Navigating the Maze of Mental Health Data and Statistics: A Guide to Public Health Data Systems

In the realm of public health, understanding the intricacies of mental health through comprehensive data and statistics is crucial for developing effective interventions and policies. Various public health data systems offer valuable insights into mental health information, each with its unique focus areas. Here’s an overview of some key systems that provide critical data on mental health.

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

The BRFSS is a cornerstone for collecting information on health risk behaviors, preventative health practices, and access to healthcare. It includes questions about recent mentally unhealthy days, anxiety and depressive disorders, mental illness and stigma, and psychological distress. This system plays a pivotal role in understanding mental health trends and shaping preventive measures.

Household Pulse Survey

In collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau, the CDC’s Household Pulse Survey serves as an experimental data system to monitor trends in mental health, health insurance coverage, and issues in accessing care. This timely data source has become increasingly relevant, offering insights into the mental health impacts of societal events and changes.

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

NHANES merges interviews and physical examinations to assess the health and nutritional status of the American population. It provides data on conditions such as depression and anxiety, covering symptoms, concerns related to mental health and substance abuse, and the utilization and need for mental health services.

National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)

The NHIS collects data on mental health and disorders for both adults and children, including serious psychological distress, feelings of depression and anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. It also examines mental health service use and unmet needs, adding depth to our understanding of the population’s mental health.

National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS)

NAMCS offers insights into visits to office-based physicians and community health centers, collecting data on the type of provider, medications, primary diagnoses, and long-lasting conditions. This information is essential for understanding the outpatient care landscape for mental health.

National Hospital Care Survey (NHCS)

The NHCS provides a comprehensive view of care across different treatment settings, detailing diagnoses, services and procedures, healthcare professionals seen, and hospital characteristics. It is invaluable for examining the inpatient and outpatient care for mental health conditions.

National Post-acute and Long-term Care Study (NPALS)

NPALS monitors trends in long-term care services, including data on mental illness, depression, and service usage. It sheds light on the mental health needs of populations in long-term care settings, informing policy and service provision.

National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH)

Focusing on children’s health and well-being, the NSCH collects data on mental or behavioral problems, family interactions, and the impact of school and community environments on mental health. It emphasizes the holistic nature of children’s health and the importance of supportive environments.

National Survey of the Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome (NS-DATA)

NS-DATA aims to understand diagnostic practices, levels of impairment, and treatments for children diagnosed with ADHD and/or Tourette Syndrome. It provides critical insights into these conditions, informing better management and support strategies.

National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS)

The NVDRS gathers data on the circumstances surrounding violent deaths, including suicide, from various sources. It offers a detailed view of the factors contributing to violent deaths, including mental illness and disorders, which is crucial for prevention efforts.

Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)

PRAMS collects data on maternal attitudes and experiences before, during, and after pregnancy, including the prevalence of postpartum depression and anxiety symptoms. This information is vital for supporting maternal mental health.

School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS)

As a national survey, SHPPS assesses school health policies and practices, including mental health and social service policies. It highlights the role of educational settings in supporting student mental health.


CDC’s WISQARS is an interactive database that provides data on injury-related issues, including intentional self-harm and suicide. It is a critical tool for understanding and preventing self-harm and suicide.

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)

The YRBSS monitors health-risk behaviors among youth, including those related to mental health such as substance abuse and behaviors contributing to unintended injuries and violence. It is essential for addressing risk factors and promoting healthy behaviors among young people.

These public health data systems are instrumental in painting a comprehensive picture of mental health in the United States. They provide the foundation for informed decision-making, policy development, and the implementation of targeted interventions aimed at improving mental health outcomes. As our understanding of mental health evolves, so too will these data systems, continuously adapting to meet the needs of public health professionals, policymakers, and the general public.

🌐 Sources

  1. cdc.gov – CDC – BRFSS
  2. cdc.gov – Are You Up to Date on Your Preventive Care? | CDC
  3. mhanational.org – Access to Care Data 2023
  4. health.gov – Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
  5. health.gov – Preventive Care – Healthy People 2030

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