Millions of yearly visits to the ER involve patients with mental disorders and substance abuse problems


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Not every emergency room visit involves a physical problem. Out of 95 million visits made to emergency rooms by adults in the U.S. in 2007, 12 million, or 12.5%, had to do with mental disorders, a substance abuse problem, or both.

The findings are from a report recently put out by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.


Of those 12 million visits, about 66% involved patients with mental disorders, about 25% involved patients with substance abuse issues and the rest involved patients who had both a mental disorder and a substance abuse problem.

Almost 41% of those 12 million visits resulted in the patient being admitted to the hospital, which is more than 2.5 times the rate of hospitalizations for other conditions.

Almost 54% of the mental health/substance abuse-related visits were from women. About 47% of the visits were by people age 18 to 44, and about 35% were by people age 45 to 64.

The top five conditions that made up 96% of all the mental health/substance abuse cases were (in order) mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol disorders, drug disorders, schizophrenia and other psychoses, and intentional self-harm. One patient could have multiple diagnoses.

As for how the 12 million visits were billed, 30% went to Medicare, 26% went to private insurers, 20% went to Medicaid and 21% of patients were uninsured.

-Jeannine Stein