The Most Depressed States

Why We’re Depressed

Cold and wet winters may put a damper on Americans’ moods, but real depression is caused by several factors well beyond the most visible. Jobs, religion, health care and weather, among other factors, combine differently in each state to indicate the overall outlook of its residents.  Yet some states struggle to recover from a dismal economy, and others, while troubled, continue to have hope. MainStreet combined rankings from three equally-weighted studies which each used different characteristics to measure depression by state:  access to and use of mental health care, self-reported mental health statuses as well as outside factors known to affect mental health. We used Mental Health America’s report, Ranking America’s Mental Health: An Analysis of Depression Across the States, which covered mental health care need, use and availability; plus a ranking based on Kaiser Family Foundation data showing the percentage of people surveyed in each state who said they had poor mental health.  In addition, we used a recent happiness study by Hamilton College in the U.S. and the University of Warwick in the U.K. that took into account objective quality of life indicators like weather and access to national parks. The results may surprise you. Photo Credit: Kim Joar


10th Most-Depressed State: Indiana

The Indiana economy has taken a very real hit from the recession.  Between May 2008 and May 2009 alone, the state lost 156,000 jobs compared with 132,600 jobs during the last recession between 2000 and 2003, according to the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. Indiana is a manufacturing hub and produces metals, autos and other transportation equipment, electronics and industrial machinery, according to economywatch.com.  But in addition to those industries suffering recently, the manufacture of their products have contributed to serious pollution concerns in the state as well. 


9th Most-Depressed State: California

One might think that with generally beautiful southern California weather, the Golden State should be one of the least depressed. But just because Hollywood may be all smiles (that is, if faces aren’t too frozen with Botox), doesn’t mean that California hasn’t felt the effects of the recession. California was one of the states hit hardest by real estate woes, with many home values cut in half and several of its cities topping the list of metro areas hardest hit by foreclosures, according to CNNMoney.com.


8th Most-Depressed State: Washington

Frequent visitors to the state of Washington know that July, August and September tend to provide sunny, beautiful and temperate conditions, but for much of the rest of the year, weather can easily put a damper on one’s mood.  Seattle is cloudy about 226 days out of the year, notes local network KOMO News. Cloudy skies and rain don’t stop lovers of The Twilight Saga series from visiting the gloomy city of Forks, Wash., however.  Tourism has, at the very least, brightened up the town’s economic situation lately.


7th Most-Depressed State: Connecticut

The gaming industry has taken a hit nationwide, and Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos are no different.  What’s more, the aerospace industry is ailing and even hospitals are suffering as residents switch from more profitable private insurers to government-run programs, according to the Record-Journal.


6th Most-Depressed State: Michigan

With the still struggling - though possibly improving - U.S. auto market and other worries centered on Detroit, it may not be too surprising that Michigan has made the list of the 10 most depressed states in the country. What’s more, the unemployment rate statewide is a dismal 15% compared to 10% nationwide. And the University of Michigan doesn’t expect the rate to improve much through 2011, according to AnnArbor.com.


5th Most-Depressed State: Utah

Depression may be widespread in Utah as suicide has been called a “deadly taboo” and a major cause of death among young people there, according to the Deseret News.  In fact, for years, Utah had one of the highest suicide rates among states nationwide, according to the Utah Department of Health, especially among men between the ages of 15 and 24. The state appears to be trying to correct the problem, though. Utah has a reputation as the biggest user of antidepressants, the Deseret News says, and a mental health education program called Hope for Tomorrow has been implemented in schools statewide, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.


4th Most-Depressed State: Missouri

Missouri may be an especially dismal state for animal lovers.  It’s been called the puppy mill capital of the U.S., according to the state’s own Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.  The state is home to “many filthy, overcrowded, and poorly regulated commercial dog breeding facilities," according to the group. What’s more, Missouri has one of the worst public school systems, according to WalletPop.  And in 2008, Missouri was also the state with the highest homicide rate among blacks, according to the Associated Press.


3rd Most-Depressed State: Rhode Island

Despite its small size, Rhode Island houses big companies including CVS (Stock Quote: CVS), Hasbro (Stock Quote: HAS), A.T. Cross, Swarovski and Tiffany & Co. (Stock Quote: TIF), according to the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. And many top designers also come from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. But textiles, clothing, leather and paper manufacturing businesses have slumped and are set to continue a dramatic decline in the next few years, according to the state’s Department of Labor and Training. And even workers with more basic and necessary positions, like stock clerks, inspectors, typists and computer programmers may lose their jobs in the next few years, the agency says.


2nd Most-Depressed State: Ohio

While the state of Ohio may know how to party, that doesn’t keep it off the list of America’s most depressed states. Ohio faces weak state finances and a bleak job outlook, according to Cleveland.com, and farmers have been hit with bad weather and planting conditions as well as weak wheat prices.


The Most Depressed State: Nevada

Nevada may not be the most debt-ridden state on paper,  but it seems to have plenty to be depressed about. In fact, the state has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, and in 2007, Nevada seniors had the highest suicide rate for their age group at nearly three times the national average, according to the Las Vegas Sun. And beyond gamblers, the outlook for gaming industry workers appears to be anything but fun as well, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.  Revenue from casinos have plummeted statewide, the Review-Journal notes, and they aren’t expected to get any better this year.


10th Least-Depressed State: South Carolina

South Carolina is one of the most religious states in America, which may have something to do with how happy it is.  About 70% of the state’s residents say religion is an important part of their lives, MainStreet previously reported. And if religion isn’t a factor in a South Carolinian’s life, maybe 182 miles of oceanfront beaches help keep them smiling.


9th Least-Depressed State: Minnesota

A Gallup poll ranked Minnesota the fifth healthiest and happiest state last year, and while times in the state and the country have been tough, things may be looking up. Federal stimulus funds have created jobs, home buyers have been lured by tax credits and auto sales saw a boost thanks in part to last year’s Cash for Clunkers program, notes MinnPost.com.


8th Least-Depressed State: North Dakota

North Dakota may be one of the least depressed states because it knows how to relax.  According to last year’s Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, North Dakota is the second least stressed out state. The study additionally found that North Dakota had the best physical health score among all of the states, indicating a correlation between physical and mental health.


7th Least-Depressed State: Texas

Texans sing the praises of their home in schools and at gatherings across the state, quite literally.  And along with their state pride, Texas residents have one of the strongest state economies nationwide, and their home is among the states with the lowest debt burden, according to Forbes.com. Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office has also announced plans for improved online courses to increase access to quality education for rural and home-schooled students, which may give a needed boost to young job-seekers.


6th Least-Depressed State: Iowa

The state of Iowa appears hopeful, especially as a home for expanding businesses.  It promises “short commutes, safe neighborhoods, top-notch medical facilities, affordable housing, and easy access to a wide variety of multicultural and recreational opportunities,” according to the Iowa Department of Economic Development, which makes it easy for prospective residents to compare Iowa to their home state. Iowa is already a top corn and soybean producer, which could mean an even brighter future for the state as the country increasingly focuses on clean energy and green job development.


5th Least-Depressed State:  Tennessee

If food improves mood, it’s no wonder that Tennessee is one of the least depressed states.  It’s also one of the fattest, according to Forbes.com. When Tennessee residents were asked to rank their own mental health, the state ranked the second happiest, according to statehealthfacts.org. And considering the objective measures including area precipitation, temperature, sunshine, national parks, commuting time and cost of living, among other factors, Tennessee was also found to be one of the happiest states, according to a study by the University of Warwick and Hamilton College.


4th Least-Depressed State: Florida

This is contrary to MainStreet’s own Happiness Index, which compiles economic indicators including household income, non-mortgage debt, employment and foreclosures to measure a state’s economic “happiness.” But we recognize that money doesn’t always equal bliss, and it’s no surprise to us that this tropical retirement destination is one of the least depressed states. If you’re a Florida resident, but you’re not there to enjoy your twilight years, there are beach bodies and beautiful weather to look forward to every day as well. So, despite painful foreclosure rates and shrunken retirement incomes, self-reported happiness levels, environmental factors and access to care make Florida happy even in tough times.


3rd Least-Depressed State: South Dakota

A slew of new jobs created by Citibank, headquartered in Sioux Falls, isn’t the only reason this state isn’t too depressed. Residents here are generally happy with their quality of life, and tourism actually did pretty well compared to that of other states even during the recession, according to the Associated Press. In fact, visitors to the state rose 1.9% last year compared with a 7.1% drop nationally, the AP reported.


2nd Least-Depressed State: Hawaii

It’s no surprise that Hawaii is a state where a majority of its residents report being happy, even despite the high cost of importing everyday products like bread and milk from the mainland. We imagine that the amount of coastal land, sunshine, comfortable temperatures and air quality – and the easy availability of fresh tropical fruits for that matter – may be worth the higher cost of living for many of this state’s residents.


The Least Depressed State: Louisiana

While the University of Warwick and Hamilton College study reported by ScienceDaily took into account a few pieces of data from before Hurricane Katrina (some of its data spanned from 2005 to 2008), there are still undeniable results showing that, despite the 2005 devastation, Louisiana residents are still happy. Despite delays in receiving government aid, Louisiana has boosted its mental health resources, after receiving about $40 million in funding for community development.


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