April 15, 2009

Hawaii least stressful, Ky. most stressful

People feeling burdened by stress, depression or emotional problems are not evenly distributed across the United States, researchers found.

Lead investigator Dr. Matthew M. Zack said frequent mental distress was defined as having 14 or more days in the previous month experiencing stress, depression or emotional problems.

Combining data from annual large-scale surveys in 1993-2001 and 2003-2006 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zack and colleagues found that the adult prevalence of frequent mental distress was 9.4 percent overall, ranging from 6.6 percent in Hawaii to 14.4 percent in Kentucky.

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System has asked questions about mental health since 1993 and collects data from random telephone surveys of U.S. adults. More than 1.2 million people were surveyed in each of the two periods.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that from the earlier period to the later period, the mean prevalence of frequent mental distress increased by at least 1 percentage point in 27 states and by more than 4 percentage points in Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

The Appalachian and the Mississippi Valley regions had high and increasing frequent mental distress prevalence, while the upper Midwest had low and decreasing frequent mental distress prevalence.

Differences in physical conditions such as disability or diabetes, stressful life events like job loss and social circumstances including low income may be associated with differences in frequent mental distress prevalence, the researchers said.