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RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH IN NEW YORK CITY: DATA FROM THE 2002 NEW YORK CITY COMMUNITY HEALTH SURVEYKH McVeigh*, F Mostashari*, RA Wunsch-Hitzig**, SA Kuppin**, CG King**, JD Plapinger**, & LI Sederer***New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Bureau of Epidemiology Services** New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Division of Mental Hygiene


Clinical studies have documented relationships between physical and mental health, but until now, these relationships have not been quantified in a representative sample of New York City residents. This study presents findings that document the prevalence of significant emotional distress and its relationship to physical health.


We examined data from the New York City Community Health Survey (NYCCHS), a random sample telephone survey of 9,674 non-institutionalized adults conducted from May-July 2002.Respondents were asked standardized, cognitively tested questions about their health status and risk factors. Respondents were classified as having experienced “significant emotional distress” during the prior 30 days if they scored above 12 on the K6 scale (Kessler, 2002), a six-item screening measure designed to discriminate between community cases and non-cases of DSM-IV/SCID disorders. Multi-way frequency analyses were conducted in SUDAAN producingweighted, age-standardized estimates.

  • More than 6% (381,000 people) of all adult New Yorkers report having clinically significant emotional distress. Persons with this distress often experience depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems that may substantially interfere with a major life activity, such as eating, maintaining a household, working, or developing and maintaining personal relationships (table 1).
  • Significant emotional distress is reported more frequently among women, Hispanics, people ages 45 and older, those who are divorced, separated, or widowed, and people who earn less than $25,000 (table 1).
  • New Yorkers who report significant emotional distress also report poorer overall health and more days of poor health in the past 30 days (chart 1).
  • New Yorkers who report significant emotional distress often engage in behaviors that put them at increased risk for health problems, including getting no exercise, and eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and smoking (table 2).
  • New Yorkers who report significant emotional distress experience high rates of many conditions that put them at risk for disability and early death, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, asthma, and diabetes (chart 2).
  • Approximately 381,000 New Yorkers experience emotional distress of sufficient magnitude to warrant a mental health assessment. The strong correlation between significant emotional distress and physical health suggests that both mental health and physical health providers should be alert to recognize, and treat or make referrals for co-occurring conditions.


Kessler, R.C., Andrews, G., Colpe, L.J., Hiripi, E., Mroczek, D.K., Normand, S-L.T., Walters, E.E., & Zaslavsky, A.M. (2002). Short screening scales to monitor population prevalences and trends in non-specific psychological distress. Psychological Medicine, 32, 959-976.

We would like to thank Anjum Hajat, CHS Survey Manager, for her assistance with this analysis. For more information, please contact Tina McVeigh at

Presented at the Second International Conference on Urban Health, October 15-18, 2003.