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What percentage of Freakonomics readers are mentally ill?

If you believe a recent study, a good guess is 25%. At least that is the estimate for American adults overall. And over a lifetime, an estimated 46% of Americans will suffer from mental illness.

There is an interesting post on the “Done as a Society” blog that applies Freakonomics-type thinking to this result.

Some thoughts:

1) When I entered college, I intended to major in Psychology. The thing that ultimately turned me away from that major was that too much effort seemed to be devoted to naming bad behaviors (e.g. bipolar disorder, ADHD), and not enough time spent actually fixing the behaviors. That made me appreciate economics.

2) I’ve long wondered whether the “explosion” in autism is truly an explosion in the incidence of the disease, or just an explosion in diagnosis. Somewhat related, it turns out that when school systems started getting resources for having “special ed” children, the number of “special ed” kids skyrocketed.

3) And all along I thought my colleagues were unusually inclined towards mental illness, when really it looks like the proportions match the U.S. as a whole.

4) If you followed the links I posted, did you notice that managed to do two stories on the same study within a couple months? Pretty crafty.