States With High Uninsured Rates Have More Suicides
States with higher rates of residents who lack health insurance have higher rates of depression and suicide, according to an unpublished study commissioned by Mental Health America and released to USA Today.
For the study, sponsored by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Tami Mark of Thomson Healthcare used federal data on mental health and state databases to develop a "depression index" and ranked states based on rates and seriousness of depression, and rates of suicide.
Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii had the lowest rates of depression and suicide, and Utah, West Virginia, Idaho and Nevada had the highest rates, the study found (Elias, USA Today, 11/28).
The report found that California had the 15th-lowest depression rate and the 11th-lowest suicide rate (USA Today, 11/28).
According to the study, rates of suicide in states with the highest rates exceeded those in states with the lowest rates by two to four times.
States with lower rates of suicide had higher rates of adults who received mental health care, more availability of psychologists and psychiatrists, and mental health parity laws that require health insurers to provide equal levels of coverage for physical and mental illnesses, the study found.
Mark said that, although the study does not link a lack of access to mental health care to higher rates of depression and suicide, "it suggests we should be monitoring mental health care and comparing outcomes."
David Shearn of Mental Health America said that the study highlights the importance of health care in the 2008 presidential campaign, as well as mental health parity legislation under consideration in Congress. "There are consequences of no mental health treatment: it can cost lives," he said.
John Holahan, director of the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said that the study is "pretty interesting and important because it suggests that having insurance and improving access to care has an impact on mental health and suicide" (USA Today, 11/28).