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Needed but couldn't afford mental health care, past 12 months

Codes and Frequencies

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For sample adults and sample children age 2-17, YBARMENTAL indicates whether, at any time during the past 12 months, they needed mental health care or counseling but didn't get it because they couldn't afford it. "Mental health care or counseling" was defined by the survey respondent.

The Field Representative's Manual for 1999-2000 instructed interviewers to "include all types of financial limitations that prevented the person from getting medical services."

YBARMENTAL was one of a series of questions intended to determine if the family's access to health care was restricted because of financial concerns. The survey also collected information about whether, at any time in the past 12 months, sample adults and sample children needed but did not get eyeglasses (YBARGLASS), prescription medicines (YBARMEDS), dental care, including checkups, (YBARDENTAL), follow-up care (YBARFOLLOW), and specialist care (YBARSPECL).


This variable is completely comparable between 1997 and 2018. While the general meaning of YBARMENTAL is comparable over time, questionnaire design changes introduced in 2019 limit comparability with earlier years. The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.

A similar variable is available for 1993-1996: NOTMENTAL identifies persons who needed mental health care but could not get it at some time during the past 12 months. However, the question wording for YBARMENTAL refers specifically to financial barriers to attaining mental health care. The question wording for NOTMENTAL is more inclusive; non-financial reasons such as being "too busy" or "missed a bus" were also accepted as barriers to attaining mental health care with this variable.


  • 1997-2018: Sample adults age 18+ and sample children age 2 to 17.
  • 2019-2022: Sample adults age 18+ and sample children age 2 to 17.
  • 2021: Sample adults 18+


  • 1997-2022