To describe the disability associated with psychiatric disorder in a community sample in order to refine estimates of service need and identify subgroups with greater priority for intervention.
Disability is conceptualized broadly as performance difficulties, troubled relationships, and dissatisfaction in various life domains. Data from the Mental Health Supplement are used to compare disability between those with and without disorder and among various subtypes of disorder.
Although the majority of those with disorder do not report disability, their difficulties with functioning are far greater than for the rest of the population. Those with comorbid or affective disorders typically have more disability than those with anxiety or substance abuse disorders.
Society needs to recognize the high human and economic costs associated with the prevalence of psychiatric disorder. Assessments of service need and decisions about priorities should take both disorder and disability into consideration.