Thursday, April 28, 2011

Utah is the Happiest State in America!!

Okay, I couldn't not blog about this one.

Did you come across this, "Want to be live among the happiest Americans? Move to Utah" in the New York Times yesterday? I didn't either but somebody posted it to Facebook so now I can sound all smart by talking about the New York Times.

This is seriously interesting news, though. Utah (and by association, the Mormon Church) has looooong been stereotyped as repressed, depressed, and having all sorts of mental health issues--mostly because of one limited study that shows Utah has a high rate of antidepressant prescriptions. Often the chatter around this issue involves things like the somewhat fabled "Mother in Zion Syndrome" that drives all Mormon women to insanity by telling them that they have to be perfect. Less often you hear people say Mormons need antidepressants because they aren't allowed to drink. Others will tell you it's a genetic curse and Mormons are being responsible by managing an illness that happens to, well, run in the family. Some people even go so far as to say it's all those non-Mormons in Utah who have to get the antidepressants. ***Please note I said "some people". I am not "some people". I am not backing any of these theories.*** I'd personally like to see research on if all these prescriptions are actually being filled and used, and how many of them are for off label purposes (like PMS, bladder control issues in children, etc.), and who is doing the prescribing.

What doesn't get talked about is the fact that mental/emotional health is an issue that requires nuanced thinking. (No surprise there. The media at large doesn't do nuance very well these days. *Sigh* ) People who enjoy good mental health for extended periods of time usually have a number of things going for them. They get regular exercise, they sleep well, they have strong family ties and support systems, they eat their veggies, they live above the poverty line--the list goes on and on. (Want more detailed info on folks who live the longest and report the greatest rates of well being worldwide? Check out The Okinawa Program. The reading is a little dense, but it is chock full of implementable info.) Also, people who enjoy the best mental/emotional health DO have hard times. Think of the Greatest Generation. Hard times? Yes. Optimism and courage? Definitely yes.

This is why the Gallup Poll reported in the New York Times is exciting to me. It looks at six different factors (instead of a single piece of info like antidepressant prescription rate). The NYT article also points out that just because one state scored high in one area doesn't mean they scored high in another. That kind of talk sounds a lot like nuance, and that is something to celebrate.

So, here's to Utah and the fact that they came out on top for once. In case you are wondering, in past years, Hawaii (and Boulder, CO but not the entire state of Colorado??)has come out on top. Now if only we could answer why states with the highest well being rates also have high suicide rates. . .

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

Very interesting - and happy! - survey! I'm glad that a more detailed investigation is being made into "happiness." I gotta say I'm a bit distrustful of "polls" though. Mental illness is notoriously hard to quantify (one person's happy is another's ennui) but I wish the researchers had used some objective measures in addition to the self-reported surveys.