States With Higher Uninsured Rates Have Higher Suicide Rates

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Suicide Rates

States with higher rates of residents who lack health insurance havehigher rates of depression and suicide, according to an unpublishedstudy commissioned by Mental Health America and released to USA Today. For the study, sponsored by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Tami Mark of Thomson Healthcareused federal data on mental health and state databases to develop a"depression index" and ranked states based on rates and seriousness ofdepression, and rates of suicide.

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Maryland, New Jersey,Illinois and Hawaii had the lowest rates of depression and suicide, andUtah, West Virginia, Idaho and Nevada had the highest rates, the studyfound. According to the study, rates of suicide in states with thehighest rates exceeded those in states with the lowest rates by two tofour times. States with lower rates of suicide had higher rates ofadults who received mental health care, more availability ofpsychologists and psychiatrists, and mental health parity laws thatrequire health insurers to provide equal levels of coverage forphysical and mental illnesses, the study found.

Mark saidthat, although the study does not link a lack of access to mentalhealth care to higher rates of depression and suicide, "it suggests weshould be monitoring mental health care and comparing outcomes." DavidShearn of Mental Health America said that the study highlights theimportance of health care in the 2008 presidential campaign, as well asmental health parity legislation under consideration in Congress."There are consequences of no mental health treatment: it can costlives," he said.

John Holahan, director of the Health Policy Centerat the Urban Institute, said that the study is "pretty interesting andimportant because it suggests that having insurance and improvingaccess to care has an impact on mental health and suicide" (Elias, USA Today, 11/28).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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