Mental Health Disorder Prevalence and Incidence among Active Duty Service Members, 2005–2017

The visualizations below describe trends in period prevalence and incident episodes of diagnosed mental health disorders among active duty service members (ADSMs), including activated Guard and reserves, within each calendar year from 2005 to 2017 (graphs) and from 2015 to 2017 (maps). Both measures take into account care delivered in all settings that accept TRICARE (military and civilian).

Period prevalence refers to the percent of ADSMs who met the definition of a case for a given disorder in the year of interest. Incident episodes are prevalent cases in which the patient had six months without a diagnosis prior to becoming a prevalent case in that year. Generally speaking, prevalent cases are meant to show overall burden of a given disorder within the Military Health System (MHS) and incident episodes are meant to show the burden of new cases. Prevalent and incident cases were defined using the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch case definitions, which are based largely on the ICD diagnosis codes recorded during a medical encounter. Contact us with questions or suggestions.

graph legend


Note: The “Any MH” graph uses a larger y-axis scale compared to disorder-specific graphs

Interpreting these Graphs

  • The prevalence of mental health disorders among ADSMs increased from approximately 8 percent in 2005 to almost 16 percent in 2012 before declining to approximately 14 percent in 2017.
  • A similar trend is seen with incident episodes of care for a mental health disorder among ADSMs. Incidence increased from about 6 percent in 2005 to nearly 9 percent in 2017, with a peak of 12 percent in 2012.
  • These are crude rates that have not been adjusted to account for demographic differences between services. Therefore, we do not recommend making comparisons between groups or to the civilian population. These rates are intended to help you understand trends and think about health care utilization over time.

Mental Health Disorder Prevalence among Active Duty Service Members in the Military Health System, Fiscal Years 2015-2017

Legend
14.8% - 22.2%
12.6% - 14.7%
10.7% - 12.5%
8.3% - 10.6%
Suppressed due to small counts
  • Hawaii
  • Alaska
  • United States

Interpreting these Maps

  • Higher prevalence rates in a given state may be due to many different things: the operational focus of the installations there, the population of different installations, the size of different populations, the specialties of particular medical installations, or the actual burden of disease, to name a few.
  • Some states have larger ADSM populations than others, but because we are displaying rates and not raw patient counts, these variations in installation numbers and size are accounted for, though differences in enrolled populations by state are not.
  • These are crude rates that have not been adjusted to account for demographic differences between states. Therefore, we do not recommend making comparisons between groups or to the civilian population. These rates are intended to help you understand trends and think about health care utilization over time.

Limitations

Administrative health care data only captures information when medical services are utilized. This data is limited further by the fact that we only know what providers record and how they code a diagnosis in the medical records. Consequently, the prevalence estimates you see here only include patients who seek care for a given condition and are coded with a diagnosis for that condition. Therefore, patients who do not seek care and patients who seek care but are not coded with a given diagnosis are not counted as cases in these estimates, which likely results in an underestimation of true mental health disorder prevalence among ADSM populations. It may be easier to think of these figures as prevalence of health care utilization for particular conditions.

Visit our Conditions page for more on depression, PTSD, and substance misuse.

Recommended Citation

Psychological Health Center of Excellence (2019, August). Psychological Health by the Numbers: Mental Health Disorder Prevalence and Incidence among Active Duty Service Members, 2005–2017. Available at: https://www.pdhealth.mil/research-analytics/psychological-health-numbers/mental-health-disorder-prevalence. Defense Health Agency: Falls Church, VA.