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Public Repository to Engage Community and Enhance Design Equity

Frequent Mental Distress

Frequent mental distress refers to a state of ongoing psychological hardship, which can impact daily functioning and overall well-being. The built environment may promote positive mental health through daylighting, biophilic design, areas for recuperation, etc., which, in turn may improve sleep, nutrition, and physical activity.


Mental distress is defined as someone feeling emotionally unhealthy, sad, depressed, stressed, anxious, or troubled for at least 14 out of the last 30 days. Rates of mental distress increased after COVID-19, with about half of all young adults now reporting symptoms of depression.

Human Health Mechanism

Mental health has a huge impact on one’s physical health and overall well-being. Having frequent mental distress is correlated with poor sleep, poor nutrition, substance use disorders, and lack of physical activity. It can also put people at a higher risk for physical health problems like diabetes and heart disease. Those who struggle with frequent mental distress often are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors like smoking and getting insufficient sleep.

Indicator Measurement

Data are available through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) PLACES public dashboard and are collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is a state-based, telephone interview survey. BRFSS provides the prevalence of frequent mental distress by modeling the percentage of adults who reported that their mental health was poor for 14 days or more during the past 30 days.

Related Health Outcomes & Exposures

High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Physical Inactivity, Physical Disability, Noise Pollution, Not Enough Sleep Hours, Greenness, Walkability


Click here for References
  1. Frequent Mental Distress Data Source: CDC PLACES: Mental Distress. Data year 2020. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Allen JG, MacNaughton P, Laurent JG, Flanigan SS, Eitland ES, Spengler JD. Green Buildings and Health. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2015;2(3):250-258. doi:10.1007/s40572-015-0063-y
  3. CDC. Disability and Health Promotion: Frequent Mental Distress Among Adults with Disabilities. Published September 10, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2023.
  4. City Health Dashboard. Metrics Background: Frequent Mental Distress. Updated July 26, 2023. Accessed October 19, 2023.
  5. Eitland E, Klingensmith L, MacNaughton P, et al. Schools for Health. 2017. Accessed October 19, 2023.
  6. Evans GW. The built environment and mental health. J Urban Health. 2003;80(4):536-555. doi:10.1093/jurban/jtg063
  7. Jacobs DE, Breysse J, Dixon SL, et al. Health and housing outcomes from green renovation of low-income housing in Washington, DC. J Environ Health. 2014;76(7):8-60.
  8. Perkins&Will. Healthy Schools by Design. Published April 18, 2023. Accessed October 19, 2023.