The New York Times edition for Sunday, June 7, 2015, included an interesting commentary by an economist comparing patterns of utilization of therapy in politically “red” and “blue” states. “Talking Red State Blues,” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, discusses the author’s research using Google searches for therapy and AA resources, broken out by state, in conjunction with other data sources.
Here is some of what I learned:
- People in blue states are far more likely to use therapy to treat mental illness.
- There are 76 percent more psychologists and psychiatrists per capita in blue states.
- People in red and blue states are about equally likely to use antidepressant medication to treat depression.
- The author notes that research finds that about 30 percent of Americas with mental health problems are not receiving treatment and cite concern about stigma. He says, “Many people will feel O.K. going to a general practitioner and taking a few pills but seek to avoid more comprehensive treatment with therapists.
- Minnesota ranked only 19th in frequency of internet searches for psychotherapy resources.
- Minnesota ranked 12th in per capita use of antidepressant medication.
- Red states have a 30 percent higher rate of suicide than blue states, and around 20 percent higher rates of major depression. The author theorizes, “Among many other factors, lack of therapy is probably playing a role int these outcomes.”
My take: the research methodology, as the author readily acknowledged, is not perfect, but the trends seem to be significant and provide support for the need for improving access to therapy. Also, in Minnesota we appear to have our work cut out for us, as there appears to be more interest in medication than therapy in the general public.