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Soliant Report Reveals the Best States for Happiness & Mental Health 

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Soliant Health has released its 2023 Best States for Mental Health Report, which ranks all 50 states on various factors that impact mental health and mental healthcare access.

The report was commissioned to better understand the disparities in mental health support in communities and schools nationwide, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year. This comprehensive report aims to elevate the conversations about mental health and the crucial need for increased access to mental wellness services across the country.

Most studies that rank locations for best and worst mental health often consider a limited range of factors—but Soliant wanted to see the bigger picture. Instead of ranking states simply by the access to mental health providers or based on general population surveys, Soliant worked with healthcare professionals to consider a wider range of factors that impact mental health at all ages, in addition to factors regarding the ability to engage in good mental health practices.

The categories used to determine the overall mental health of a state included:

  • The frequency of “bad mental health days” reported by the existing population
  • Access to mental health providers
  • Suicide rate of 15-24 age group
  • Unemployment rate
  • Violent crime rate
  • Disconnected youth rate, which is teens and young adults aged 16-19 who are neither working nor in school
  • Access to exercise opportunities, including public parks, recreation facilities, and YMCAs
  • Air pollution, to offset states with limited access to exercise opportunities due to rural landscapes and larger bodies of nature or protected land

The top-ranking states best meet the mental health needs of the population, for example, by providing emotional support for school students and sufficient access to exercise opportunities so that people can engage in good mental health practices. These top-ranking states also had lower unemployment rates, suicide rates, violent crime rates, and air pollution. The report also considered the number of “mentally unhealthy days” reported by the population and the level of access to mental health providers, ensuring individuals can receive the care they need.

The Top 10 Best States for Mental Health

The Soliant 2023 Best States for Mental Health report revealed that the best state for mental health is Nebraska, collecting 85.2 of the total 100 points possible across the eight mental health categories.

Nebraska has the lowest level of teenagers and young adults (ages 16-24) who are not working nor in school of all 50 states, at 4.28%. Nebraska also emerged in the top five states for having the lowest number of bad mental health days and the lowest unemployment rate.

Connecticut and Massachusetts ranked second and third, with 85 and 81.8 points, respectively.

How States Compare

Coming in last, West Virginia (50) had the highest average number of mentally unhealthy days reported by residents in the past 30 days. The state also has the least access to exercise opportunities.

Alabama (49) came in second to last. This state has the worst mental health provider-to-population ratio and comes in second for the most mentally unhealthy days, following West Virginia.

Arkansas (48) ranked poorly in a majority of the categories. The state has the third worst access to exercise opportunities, the fifth-highest disconnected youth rate, the sixth-highest air pollution, and the fourth-highest number of mentally unhealthy days.  

Additional Findings:

Hawaii (18) has the lowest air pollution and came in second for the lowest number of mentally unhealthy days. California (17) residents have the most access to exercise opportunities, but the state also has the most air pollution.

Massachusetts (3) has the highest number of mental health providers per population ratio, with one provider for every 145 residents. In comparison, Alaska (35) came in second in this category, with one provider for every 161 residents.

Six of the 10 states with the lowest rate of disconnected youth achieved a spot in the overall top 10 best states for mental health.

The Significance of Disconnected Youths

One notable discovery is the significant correlation between the disconnected youth rate and the state’s overall ranking. Disconnected youths are at an increased risk of developing poor mental health, with increased risks of violence, alcohol, drug use, and emotional deficits. This correlation is further supported by several studies showing that disconnected youths will grow to have an increased rate of unemployment, poverty, and mental health disorders.

The correlation between high disconnected youth rates and poor mental health states spotlights just how crucial it is to implement healthcare professionals in schools, as they work to ensure students grow and develop with the emotional and educational support needed to live happy, healthy lives.

School healthcare professionals directly help prevent increasing rates of disconnected youths in communities. These vital roles—including behavioral specialists, special education teachers, school nurses, school counselors, school psychologists, teachers, and more—can determine at-risk students and work to ensure all students are making safe and healthy choices for themselves and receiving the proper educational and emotional support that they need.

If you’re looking to work in a school district, Soliant has a wide variety of school job openings available. Get started on making a difference in communities across the country today.

Methodology and Sources

To most accurately calculate the final ranking, Soliant healthcare professionals determined the categories and how each should be weighted based on the influence each category had on mental health. The range of values for each mental health factor category was established and used to create a scale which each state was distributed against, receiving a value. This adjusted value determined how the state ranked for each category. Each state’s weighed value for all eight categories was added to determine the final ranking.

Categories, category weight, and sources include:

  • Poor Mental Health Days (30% weight) – The average number of mentally unhealthy days reported in the past 30 days, retrieved from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
  • Mental Health Provider Ratio (20% weight) – Ratio of population to mental health providers, retrieved from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) National Provider Identification Registry.
  • Suicide Rate of 15-24 Age Group (10% weight) – The average number of intentional self-harm deaths per 100,000 in the 15-24 age group from 2018-2021, retrieved from the CDC National Center for Health Statistics National Vital Statistics System.
  • Unemployment Rate (10% weight) – Percentage of population ages 16 and older unemployed but seeking work, retrieved from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Violent Crime Rate (10% weight) – Number of reported violent crime offenses per 100,000 population, retrieved from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.
  • Disconnected Youth Rate (10% weight) – Percentage of teens and young adults ages 16-19 who are neither working nor in school, therefore at an increased risk of violence, smoking, alcohol consumption and marijuana use, and may have emotional deficits and less cognitive and academic skills than their peers who are working and/or in school, retrieved from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS), 5-year estimates.
  • Access to Exercise Opportunities (5% weight) – Percentage of population with adequate access to locations for physical activity, such as public parks and exercise facilities, retrieved from Business Analyst, ESRI, YMCA & U.S. Census Tigerline Files.
  • Air Pollution (5% weight) – Average daily density of fine particulate matter in micrograms per cubic meter (PM2.5), retrieved from the CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.

Please note that communities ranking low for access to exercise opportunities due to rural environments were balanced by the air pollution category of an identical weight. This ensured communities with limited access to public exercise facilities due to larger bodies of nature and protected lands were not penalized, as the air quality category balanced the access to exercise facilities. Similarly, in states with high population density, wider access to exercise would be balanced out by higher air pollution. Therefore, states with low air population and high access to exercise were rewarded with the most points.