Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 38, Issue 11, pp 618–624

Prevalence of mood disorders in a national sample of young American adults

  • Bruce S. Jonas
  • Debra Brody
  • Margaret Roper
  • William E. Narrow

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-003-0682-8

Cite this article as:
Jonas, B.S., Brody, D., Roper, M. et al. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2003) 38: 618. doi:10.1007/s00127-003-0682-8



Availability of nationally representative mood disorder prevalence estimates in the United States, based on structured psychiatric interviews is limited. This report estimates overall lifetime prevalence of major depressive episode, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder using the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) and compares these estimates to the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study (ECA) conducted 10 years earlier. Additionally, prevalence estimate breakdowns by selected sociodemographic and health characteristics are investigated.


NHANES III, conducted from 1988 to 1994, is a large nationally representative cross-sectional sample of the United States. A population-based sample of 8,602 men and women 17–39 years of age were eligible to participate, of whom 7,667 (89.1 %) completed interviews. Mood disorder assessments came from the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) administered as one component of the NHANES III.


Lifetime prevalence estimates were assessed for six mood measures: 1) major depressive episode (MDE) 8.6%, 2) major depressive episode with severity (MDE-s) 7.7%, 3) dysthymia 6.2%, 4) MDE-s with dysthymia 3.4%, 5) any bipolar disorder 1.6%, and 6) any mood disorder 11.5%. All estimates except for MDE and MDE-s were significantly higher than comparable ECA estimates.


These data provide recent national prevalence estimates. Based on their overall magnitudes, subgroup excesses, and observed increases compared to the ECA, continued monitoring of these estimates is warranted.

Key words

mood disorders prevalence depression dysthymia bipolar disorder Diagnostic Interview Schedule NHANES III 

Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce S. Jonas
    • 1
  • Debra Brody
    • 1
  • Margaret Roper
    • 2
  • William E. Narrow
    • 3
  1. 1.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics Office of Analysis, Epidemiology & Health Promotion, Room 6433HyattsvilleUSA
  2. 2.National Institute of Mental HealthBethsedaUSA
  3. 3.American Psychiatric Institute for Research and EducationArlingtonUSA

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