How’s your state’s mental health?
Does where you live affect whether you’re more or less likely to be depressed? Some states have a higher percentage of people suffering from depression than other states, according to a recent study. In general, states that offer more access to mental health services have lower rates of depression and suicide than states with more limited access to care.
“Ranking the States: An Analysis of Depression Across the States” was researched and written by Mental Health America and Thomson Healthcare in 2007 from U.S. government 2002-2006 data . The report compares depression levels and suicide rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Mental Health America has two goals for the report: (1) spur the development of a public health surveillance system to monitor the mental health of Americans and the specific impact of depression, and (2) to stimulate action by communities, public health professionals, federal and state policy makers, and others to address depression in their populations.
In developing the state rankings of depression status, Mental Health America examined four measures: 1) the percentage of the adult population experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year, 2) the percentage of the adolescent population experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year, 3) the percentage of adults experiencing serious psychological distress, and 4) the average number of days in the last 30 days in which the population reported that their mental health was not good.
The Top and Bottom 10 States
South Dakota was the healthiest state with respect to depression status. Among adults in South Dakota, 7.31 percent had a major depressive episode in the past year and 11.16 percent experienced serious psychological distress. Among adolescents in South Dakota, 7.4 percent had a major depressive episode in the past year. On average, individuals in South Dakota reported having 2.41 poor mental health days in the past 30 days.
Utah was the most depressed state. Among adults in Utah, 10.14 percent experienced a depressive episode in the past year and 14.58 percent experienced serious psychological distress. Among adolescents in Utah, 10.14 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Individuals in Utah reported having on average 3.27 poor mental health days in the past 30 days.
In terms of 2004 suicide rates, the District of Columbia was the lowest, followed by New York and Massachusetts. Alaska had the highest suicide rate, followed by Nevada and New Mexico.
Another study, a 2006 report by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), shows that less than half of those with serious psychological distress received mental health services.
Factors Affecting Depression Status
While many factors likely contribute to these differences, the study found that the availability of and access to mental health services improves mental health outcomes.
|Most depressed states:||Least depressed states:|
2. West Virginia
4. Rhode Island
1. South Dakota
3. New Jersey
9. North Dakota
On average, the higher the number of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers per capita in a state, the lower the suicide rate. The lower the percentage of the population reporting that they could not obtain healthcare because of costs, the lower the suicide rate and the better the state’s depression status. The more educated the population and the greater the percentage with health insurance, the lower the suicide rate.
The Five Suggested Public Policy Solutions
The analyses suggest that the following factors reduce depression and suicide:
- Improving the availability of mental health professionals
- Reducing cost and other barriers to mental health treatment
- Encouraging appropriate utilization of mental health therapies
- Providing a richer socioeconomic environment by improving education levels, economic status and health insurance coverage
- Legislating mental health benefits that are equivalent to that for physical health