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Higher Rates of Major Depressive Disorder in Utah a Myth

Higher Rates of Major Depressive Disorder in Utah a Myth

A lot of people think that Utah is one of the most depressed states in the country, but in fact, it’s right at the national average. According to the Utah Department of Health, the prevalence rate for major depressive disorder is 4.2 percent in Utah and nationally. This means that, at any given time, about 4 percent of the state’s residents are depressed. (About one out of every ten Utah residents will go through a major depressive episode each year, and one out of every five residents will do so at some point in their lifetime.)

 

Popular Misconceptions about Major Depressive Disorder in Utah

Utah shows up near the top of a lot of lists for most depressed states. It’s an issue of data selection and methodology. Due to the inherent difficulties in researching the prevalence of major depressive disorder, there a lot of studies like this one that look at antidepressant use, mental health treatment, suicide rates, and other general information. The thing is these correlating factors serve as a poor substitute for rates of depression that are rigorously calculated through randomly selected populations and statistical analysis.

What’s more, there are many reasons why these correlating factors may be an especially poor method for Utah.

 

Antidepressant Use and Standards of Care: According to one Ogden psychiatrist quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, northern Utah’s especially high rate of antidepressant use can be linked, in part, to Intermountain Healthcare’s effort to integrate mental health services with its primary care model. In other words, rising rates of antidepressant use reflect the fact that we’re doing a better job of providing help to the people who need it.

Religion and Self-Medication: There is a solid amount of evidence to suggest that religion and antidepressant use are correlated, but there is no shortage of plausible theories about why this is the case. The one that seems most convincing to us is that lower rates of alcohol use are also correlated with these groups. Thus, religious groups tend to use antidepressants more because they’re less likely to self-medicate. You can see a fuller treatment of this discussion here.

Mental Health Stigmas: Meanwhile, rates of talk therapy are often downplayed overall in calculating rates of major depressive disorder. As laudable as it is, Utah’s culture of self-reliance and industriousness doesn’t do us any favors when it’s time to ask for help from a qualified mental health therapist. Utah residents may be especially likely to seek help from a medical doctor instead.

Cost and Insurance Coverage: On a similar note, the health insurance statistics for Utah suggest that, in addition to a slightly higher rate of coverage overall, Utah has an especially high rate of coverage for employer-sponsored plans. These plans frequently include stronger benefits. Compare this with the coverage and out-of-pocket costs for seeing a therapist on a weekly basis.

Dual-Diagnosis and other Mental Illness: Utah also shows higher rates of diagnosis and mental health services for other types of mental illness. Not only are antidepressants sometimes prescribed for anxiety, OCD, pain, PTSD, and off-label uses, but the 2010 report on Antidepressant Use in Utah showed that the highest rates of antidepressant use were for people with two significant, chronic diseases.

 

Get Help for Major Depressive Disorder in Utah

State-wide statistics may seem especially important to someone struggling with their own course of major depressive disorder, but these prevalence rates, treatment patterns, and cultural influences can be instructive as individuals seek help for their depression and decide whether to see a therapist or a doctor. We also encourage you to look for local resources in your neighborhood.

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