Friday, November 30, 2007

Correlations with self-reported mental health

Gallup has just released results of a new poll on mental health. Being a Republican correlates with better self-reported mental health; as does having a higher household income. Men's is higher than women's; whites' higher than blacks'; the more you go to church, the better for reported mental health; these aren't too terribly surprising.

This surprises me:

Percentage reporting excellent mental health:

Married: 51
Living with partner:41
Divorced: 32
Widowed: 36
Never Married: 47

I am used to hearing that married people are happier. What I've never heard is that the never married are right on their heels, and crushing three other categories! I mean, does anybody ever say anything postive about the never married? Hooray for us!!

8 comments:

Cindi said...

Maybe the divorced, black, female atheists are just more honest. Seriously, I don't put much stock in people's "self-reported mental health". Still, it is nice that we perpetual singles at least think we're sane. I'm really glad that we're beating those "living with partner" folks. Screw them.

Chris said...

Never married folks rule.

I'm sure marriage is nice, but lots of people get married for the wrong reason.

Scott said...

I think Cindi is spot on. I think "self-reported mental health" is unreliable.

Although that is admittedly a strange thought, because if mental health isn't valid when self-reported, then how CAN you judge what the term 'mental health' even means reliably? It seems ridiculous to think that some psychologist or therapist would be a better judge of one's own mental health than oneself. And if a person THINKS that they are happy, then maybe by definition they ARE happy.

But it seems like the people that would say, "Golly, yes, I am in excellent mental health!" would be Ned Flanders types, who secretly go home and tearfully flagellate themselves for having masturbated.

I guess I'm just dubious that anybody who would report that they were in "excellent mental health" is really being honest with themselves. That sounds cynical and pessimistic, but I just don't buy it.

Mary Beth said...

I don't put much stock in "self-reported mental health," either, which I reveal by using the words "self-reported" in the title and then "self-reported" or "reported" three more times in such a short article. What surprised me a bit is that the Gallup people apparently do. If you go to the first linked article about Republicans, on the third page the Gallup reporter starts into analysis of results, and begins with the old "correlation does not imply causation," then I was expecting a paragraph on what does "self-reported" excellent mental health really mean about Republicans, men, whites, etc., but then to my surprise didn't get it.

When reading Scott's comments re: mental health, it might interest you to know that Scott is a psychiatrist.

Cindi said...

The idea that somewhere between 32 and 51 percent of people have excellent (not fair, not good, not very good, but excellent) mental health is quite suspect to me. What percentage of the people you know would you say have excellent mental health?

beje said...

Questions to Scott, the psychiatrist: So, does decribing yourself as happy mean that you are also mentally healthy? Or, do psychiatrists only get to treat mentally ill people who are also unhappy, and that's the reason they sought treatment. Do you think there might be some happy people out there who are also mentally ill? I have a friend whose sister was happy in her manic stage, though those around her were very unhappy in her presence.

Scott said...

beje said...
Questions to Scott, the psychiatrist: So, does decribing yourself as happy mean that you are also mentally healthy?

NOTE: THE FACT THAT THIS IS ALL IN CAPITALS DOES not MEAN THAT I AM SCREAMING THESE WORDS!
I THINK, WEIRDLY ENOUGH, THAT IF YOU CAN (SINCERELY) DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS "HAPPY" (I.E., ACTUALLY DO FEEL HAPPY) AND ALSO AREN'T DRIVING EVERYBODY AROUND YOU TOTALLY CRAZY, THEN YOU PROBABLY ARE MENTALLY HEALTHY. WHICH PROBABLY IS NOT WHAT MOST PSYCHIATRISTS THINK, I DON'T KNOW. I KNOW A LOT OF PSYCHIATRISTS ASSOCIATE MENTAL HEALTH WITH SOMEHOW BEING A PRODUCTIVE MEMBER OF SOCIETY; I DON'T THINK THERE IS NECESSARILY A RELATION BETWEEN THE TWO THINGS. I THINK EVEN SOMEONE THAT IS TOTALLY STRANGE AND ISOLATED AND SAYING WEIRD STUFF (I.E., A HOMELESS GUY OR THE BUDDHA) IS GENUINELY MENTALLY HEALTHY IF THEY'RE HAPPY AND NOT DRIVING EVERYBODY ELSE AROUND THEM TOTALLY INSANE.
BUT I KIND OF THINK THAT, SINCE THE WHOLE "LIFE IS SUFFERING" REALIZATION IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF UNDERSTANDING WHAT LIFE ITSELF IS, BEING "HAPPY" ALMOST WOULD HAVE TO BE EQUATED WITH BEING MENTALLY HANDICAPPED OR OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY.
IN OTHER WORDS, I THINK A CERTAIN DEGREE OF DEPRESSION AND UNHAPPINESS IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE LIFE EXPERIENCE.

Cindi said...

I agree. Being sad when the circumstances warrant sadness is appropriate and honest. As long as one avoids debilitating depression, true sadness can be an impetus to bring about change, or to grow into deep acceptance.