Isles feeling the blues the least
Weather and culture cited as factors in isles' low depression rate
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Hawaii has the lowest level of adult depression in the country in 2005-06, while Nevada reported the highest, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Hawaii also had the lowest level of adult serious psychological distress in the country, while Utah recorded the highest for the same time period, the survey said.
Dr. Thomas Hester, chief of the state Health Department's Mental Health Division, suggested that Hawaii's low rate of depression was due to the sunny weather and cultural differences.
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Hawaii has the lowest level of depression and serious psychological distress in the country for people age 18 and older, a national survey for 2005-2006 shows.
Where to get help
The state Health Department's ACCESS Line for help with mental illness is staffed around the clock. Call 832-3100 on Oahu or (800) 753-6879 from the neighbor isles.
That could be due to be due to sunny weather and cultural differences, suggested Dr. Thomas Hester, chief of the state Health Department's Mental Health Division.
"But any incident of major depression can be very serious and life threatening," he stressed, "so people shouldn't lower their guard. They may have loved ones suffering from severe depression, and they should help them get help.
"The rate looks low but translates to one person taking their life every three days."
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported yesterday that in 2005-2006 Hawaii had:
» The lowest rate, 5 percent, of people age 18 and older having at least one major depressive episode. Nevada had the highest rate at 9.4 percent.
» The lowest level of serious psychological distress for that age group at 8.8 percent. Utah had the highest percentage of 14.4 percent.
About 123 people commit suicide annually in Hawaii, according to the Injury Prevention & Control Program. That is about one suicide every three days.
Also, Hester pointed out, while the overall rate of severe psychological distress is low for Hawaii, it climbs to about 19.18 percent for the age 18-to-25 group.
That age group has a lot going on, such as career and marriage decisions, which might explain the higher rate, Hester said: "The economics for a young person just trying to live are somewhat stressful."
Hawaii also was in a group of states with the second-highest rates of adolescents, 12 to 17 years old, with at least one major depressive episode during the year, Hester noted. Hawaii's rate was 8.62 percent.
The study defines a major depressive episode as a period of at least two weeks when a person loses interest in daily activities and is depressed.
Dr. Stan Michaels, chief of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division, said the rates for the adolescent group do appear a little higher than the adult group.
"The natural question then is, Why is that true in Hawaii?" he asked, adding that the survey was just an epidemiological study looking at responses to questionnaires and did not address the causes.
Dr. John Viesselman, clinical director and psychiatrist in the adolescent division, echoed Michaels' sentiments. He said the survey report is "pretty large, pretty voluminous and very epidemiological."
The two also pointed out that the percentages for adolescent depression across the country varied only 3 percent from the top state to the bottom state. "If there is not much variability in a range, I don't make too much of it," Viesselman said.
"I'm more concerned that the lay public understand the signs of depression and possible red flags for psychological distress, as they term it, in teenagers," Michaels said.
Viesselman emphasized the importance of early assessment, identification and diagnosis of kids who have symptoms representing depression. "If we get them into treatment early, we can do something about reducing this."
Drug use studied
A survey on mental health in the country also covered use of illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco products, including these details about Hawaii:
» An estimated 83,000 people age 12 and older, or 8 percent, reported illicit drug use the month before the survey. Of those, 11,000 percent were 12 to 17 years old, and illegal drug use was 10.59 percent.
» An estimated 483,000 people reported using alcohol the past month, a rate of 46.7 percent. Of the total, 13,000 were 12 to 17 years old, with 24.4 percent drinking alcohol the previous month. Of 72,000 18- to 25-year-olds, alcohol use was 58.06 percent.
» Binge alcohol drinking was reported by 21.4 percent of 221,000 people 12 and older. The highest rate of binge drinking in Hawaii was 40.4 percent for 50,000 in the 18-to-25 age group. Binging is five or more drinks in one period.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration