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Incidence of Mental Illness

Samuel E. Paul, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1981;38(3):364-365. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1981.01780280132019.
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To the Editor.—  Dr Pardes's article, "Future Needs for Psychiatrists and Other Mental Health Personnel" (Archives 1979;36:1401-1408), plays fast and loose with numbers. He "conservatively" estimates that 15% of the population, or over 32 million people, are affected by "mental disorders" and claims that more recent and more precise studies will show a rate of more than 20% of the population; these figures are much too high.My compilation1 of over 1.6 million patient visits was based on studies done by general practitioners, each one covering a full year or more of his practice. Five of these were US physicians, one was Austrian, one was an independent Britisher, and 177 were a British group participating in a national study. The figures for "emotional illness" ranged from 10% to 15%.My personal compilation of over 30,000 patient visits covering a sixyear period found an incidence of 14.4% for my first


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