Apr 12, 2023 - News

Utahns' mental health is deteriorating

Data: County Health Rankings, University of Wisconsin; Chart: Axios Visuals

Utahns' mental health worsened last year, a new national analysis shows.

Driving the news: Utah residents experienced more "poor mental health days" than the national average, according to this year's County Health Rankings, released last month by the University of Wisconsin.

  • Mental health is the only health outcome where Utah fared worse than the rest of the nation. The state's measures of physical health, child and infant health, and illnesses like diabetes and HIV were better than national averages.

By the numbers: Utahns experienced an average of 4.7 poor mental health days per month in the past year, compared to a national average of 4.4 days, researchers estimated.

  • That's a rise of nearly 7%, and more than 20% higher than in 2021.
  • Utah reported the 3rd-largest two-year increase and the 5th-highest one-year increase of any state.

Of note: This is the first year that Utah exceeded the national average since the report began comparing the two in 2019.

  • About 15% of Utahns experience "frequent mental distress" — that is, poor mental health about half of the time. That's also higher than the national average for the first time.

Zoom in: San Juan County had the highest estimate at 5.3 poor health days, followed by Carbon with 5.1, and Duchesne, Sevier and Tooele counties at 5 days.

  • Summit County saw the lowest count with four poor mental health days.
  • Salt Lake County averaged 4.9 poor mental health days per month.

Of note: Utah has made significant progress in addressing its shortage of mental health care providers, according to the report's analysis of clinics and hospitals.

  • With one provider per 270 residents, Utah has a more robust mental health workforce than the national average (one per 340 residents).
  • The number of providers per capita has more than doubled since 2014, according to previous years' reports.

Yes, but: Some rural areas with high rates of mental distress have very few local providers — and are a long drive from the nearest population centers.

  • Duchesne County, for example, had some of the worst mental health indicators in Utah, and its major towns are more than two hours from any city with at least an average supply of providers.

The big picture: Wasatch County ranked the healthiest in Utah, with San Juan County experiencing the worst outcomes.


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