Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are Mormons Depressed or Not?

Right when the idea of Mormon depression (using Utah statistics) was a given, another study has been done that challenge that impression. According to a Gallup poll on U.S. state "happiness", Utah ranks the highest with 62.9 points. There were 350,000 interviews taken about job satisfaction to health issues. The poll was conducted by Gallup in conjunction with Healthways and America's Health Insurance Plans.

Lets not get carried away. There are some cautions that those using the depression poll need to be careful of before making assumptions. Since Mormonism will most likely come up, it needs to be remembered that Utah residents are not all Mormons and not all Mormons are active members. There is also a curious fact about the numbers, as reported:

The survey, which takes about 15 minutes, involved 42 core questions. Those taking the survey could get a score of up to 100. The actual difference between states wasn't great: The average score for the highest-ranking state, Utah, was 69.2 points, while the average for the lowest-ranking state, West Virginia, was 61.2 points.

In other words, Utah is neither more depressed or more happy than anyone else in the United States. That means that, in all likelihood, Mormons aren't any mentally worse off than other people. It is hard to see how this relates to the other study that found, according to an ABC News article on the subject:

According to MHA, some 10.14 percent of adults in Utah "experienced a depressive episode in the past year and 14.15 percent experienced serious psychological distress. ... Individuals in Utah reported having on average 3.27 poor mental health days in the past 30 days."

Both studies, like all studies of this nature, are probably flawed in their own ways. Reporters have an even worse tendency to conclude causation where nothing concrete exists. In the meantime, I am going to remain happy that it appears (if past "logic" holds) Mormons are at least as happy as everyone else.


Nathan said...

You seem to be merely shrugging off the data with no credible reason.

Rather think about the deeper issues. Is there any reason why Mormon-heavy Utah might be steeped in depression more than another state?

Perhaps the worry concerning having done enough to be considered worthy or the constant politics of keeping up with the ward Joneses . . . the expectations laid upon Mormon wives to always be happy and on Mormon men to always be rich?

Jettboy said...

Yes, I am shrugging off the data. That is the point of my post for both the "depression" data and the "happiness" data. Did you even pay attention that there was a "happiness" poll at all? What does it all mean? Can they both be correct or are they both wrong?

I am pretty much saying they both have serious problems. Neither of them can be taken at face value or even used to make any clear observations. "Perhaps" is meaningless when it comes to facts.

Nathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan said...

Yes, I did misunderstand.

But we must take all surveys with a grain of salt anyway. They always must be taken on faith in the source. Being that we lack perfect or complete knowledge in all areas, "perhaps" is the only tenable way to enter this kind of discussion imho. It is speaking very generally of a broad sea of individuals.

Tigersue said...

Okay, here I am posting.

I am a woman that is depressed, but I am also happy.

I don't feel myself most of the time since the birth of my last daughter, and I also have Seasonal Affective Dissorder issues (SAD)

But I am also happy, I'm happy with the life I am blessed with, and have as much joy as I can on a daily basis.

So I doubt either poll is wrong, but how do we define depression and happiness? That should be a bigger question.

Depression is caused my a chemical imbalance in the brain, not by pressure to be something. I don't find expectations to make me depressed, but depression does make it hard to deal with unrealistic expectations.

So as a woman with PPD are they taking into account the young population? I'm sure there are many women suffering with PPD and it is not something that just goes away quickly, it can take years.

But you could ask those same women if they are happy and I bet you they would say they are.

I don't expect my husband to earn a ton of money, but be happy in his job.

Again, I don't think either study is necessarily wrong, just different questions, and perhaps different responses on different days.

Alicia said...

I found your blog searching for a picture of the tree of life... while I was here I did some reading and I just wanted to let you know that I like what you've posted so far. Thanks :)

Jettboy said...

Your welcome. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Andrew S said...

yeah, it's not like depression and happiness are opposites, so these two poll results could be theoretically accurate and it wouldn't be anything special.

(that being said, whether they are accurate is a different question).

The opposite of depression isn't happiness -- it's being able to fully feel your life.

The opposite of happiness isn't a pervasive emptiness, but sadness.