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Study: More Mental Illness, but Decline in Getting Help

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- More American adults than ever are reporting being disabled by the symptoms of depression, anxiety or other emotional problems, according to a new study.

The report, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, found that people who said they couldn't perform everyday tasks or engage in social and leisure activities because of a mental illness increased from 2 percent in 1999 to 2.7 percent in 2009.  That increase amounts to nearly two million more people disabled by mental distress in the past decade, the report said.

The study analyzed a decade of responses to an annual survey from more than 300,000 adults ages 18 to 64.

Although people did not say they felt more psychologically distressed compared to past years, they reported that their mental health problems had a greater impact on their daily lives.

Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, the study's author, said it's unclear whether the findings tell a sad story of greater psychological distress in recent times or point to a victory for public education about the importance of acknowledging and evaluating mental illness.

"It is possible that people are perceiving the effects of mental illness more acutely now than before," he said.  "People could be becoming more aware."

Mojtabai said it's also possible that a number of factors could be taking a toll on the population's mental well-being.  High unemployment, economic hardships and a growing sense of isolation could be putting greater stress on Americans.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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