County-Level Determinants of Mental Health, 2002–2008
Poor mental health is a concern in the US and world-wide. In this study we examine the effects of socioeconomic and environmental variables on the number of days of poor mental health reported across US counties. The results suggest that educational attainment, employment opportunities including self-employment, and social capital have important benefits in terms of community mental health. Other socio-demographic variables also tend to have predicted effects, as does the amount of sunshine in January, which is our control for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The general conclusion of the study is that living in a non-metro county and adjacent to a metro core, is associated with greater happiness. Mental health days also increase considerably due to natural disasters and they are affected by regional climate variability. For policymakers concerned about reducing the average number of poor mental health days across the nation, our results suggest that reducing poverty is a more powerful strategy than reducing income inequality.
KeywordsMental health Social capital Inequality Disasters
This study was supported in part by U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture Grant No. 2012-70002-19385. The usual disclaimer applies. The authors thank Scott Loveridge, Rob Lyerla and Dee Owens for stimulating discussion, but are solely responsible for the content and any opinions expressed.
- Berry, H. L., Kelly, B. J., Hanigan, I. C., Coates, J. H., McMichael, A. J., Welsh, J. A., & Kjellstrom, T. (2008). Rural mental health impacts of climate change. Commissioned paper for the Garnaut Climate Change Review (Interim report to the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments of Australia). Melbourne: Garnaut Review Secretariat.Google Scholar
- Calvo, R., Arcaya, M., Baum, C.F., Lowe, S.R., Waters, M.C. (2014). Happily ever after? Pre-and-post disaster determinants of happiness among survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Journal of Happiness Studies, doi: 10.1007/s10902-014-9516-5.
- Easterlin, R. A. (1974). Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence. In Paul A. David & Melvin W. Reder (Eds.), Nations and households in economic growth: Essays in honor of Moses Abramovitz (pp. 89–125). New York: Academic Press Inc.Google Scholar
- Glaeser, E. (2011). Triumph of the city: How our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
- Kaplan, G., & Schulhofer-Wohl, S. (2013). Understanding the Long-Run Decline in Interstate Migration, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Research Department, Working Paper 697, 63 pp.Google Scholar
- Kuznets, S. (1955). Economic growth and income inequality. American Economic Review, 45(1), 1–28.Google Scholar
- Montalvo, J. G., & Reynal-Querol, M. (2005). Ethnic diversity and economic development. Journal of Development Economics, 76, 293–323.Google Scholar
- National Drought Monitor Center. (2014). U.S. Drought Monitor. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ Accessed 2 June, 2014.
- OECD. (2011). Sick on the job? Myths and realities about mental health at work. Paris. http://www.oecd.org/els/emp/sickonthejob2011.htm. Accessed 01 June 2014.
- Symoens, S., Van de Velde, S., Colman, E., & Bracke, P. (2014). Divorce and the multidimensionality of men and women’s mental health: The role of social-relational and socio-economic conditions. Applied Research Quality of Life, 9, 197–214.Google Scholar
- World Health Organization. (2011). Impact of economic crises on mental health. WHO Regional Office. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/134999/e94837.pdf. Accessed 06 June 2014.