April 15, 2009 / 1:57 PM / 10 years ago

Depression, stress vary by U.S. regions: study

Surfers watch the waves at the 'Banzai Pipeline' during the Monster Pro Pipeline surfing contest on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu February 6, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Feeling stressed and depressed? Where you live could be a factor.

Scientists have discovered that levels of depression vary by regions with frequent mental distress (FMD) lowest at 6.6 percent in Hawaii and highest at 14.4 percent in Kentucky.

Other states including Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee had levels of more than 12 percent of FMD, which is described as having 14 days or more of depression and emotional problems in the past month.

Dr Matthew Zack, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and his team said the findings published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine could help doctors to identify and treat people with emotional problems.

“Because FMD often indicates potentially unmet health and social service needs, programs for public health, community mental health and social services whose jurisdictions include areas with high FMD levels should collaborate to identify and eliminate the specific preventable sources of this distress,” Zack said in a statement.

Health issues, stressful events such as job loss, divorce or death, and social circumstances including income level may be associated FMD, according to the researchers.

They used data from annual CDC surveys done in 1993-2001 and 2003-2006 to compare levels of FMD, which varied over time and regions. More than 1.2 million people took part in the telephone surveys for each of the two study periods.

The researchers found that the adult prevalence of FMD was 9.4 percent overall. The Appalachian and Mississippi Valley areas had the highest and increasing prevalence and the Midwest had the lowest and decreasing levels.

“With the growing scientific literature linking FMD to treatable mental illnesses and preventable mental health problems, the increased use of these surveillance data in community mental health decision making is especially warranted,” Zack said.

Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Paul Casciato

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