The Tribune posted a new article showing that Utahns have the highest rate of ‘serious psychological distress’ of any state, hot on the heels of similar news reported by ABC. It naturally kicked off the normal name-calling and general nastiness that have come to define the Tribune’s readership (not that KSL is doing any better) and brought up the same old tired myth that these studies always call forth: somehow, some way, Mormon culture must be to blame.
I’m not going to pretend that the culture doesn’t have any impact at all. At the same time, you could make the same arguments in ultra-Catholic Boston or a Baptist stronghold in Tennessee. Las Vegas is in the midst of a mental health care crisis from additions to gambling, drinking, smoking, strip clubs and a host of other ills. It’s easy to argue that any environment can be a cause of psychological issues; the people blaming Mormons are looking for an easy way out.
What seems to not have been focused on is how Utahns don’t self-medicate. We can boast the lowest rates of smoking, drinking and illegal drug use in the country, all things that are outlets for stress, you can find systems to quit smoking here so eliminate that problem forever.. Maybe our problem is that we collectively haven’t found really good outlets.
Or maybe we can’t control it. Many Utahns can trace their family ancestry back to a common ancestor as far back as 6-7 generations. It’s not entirely inconceivable that a pioneer with bad genetics ended up passing it on to a unknown number of descendants. Consider a single pioneer that has 6 children survive to adulthood. They each have 6 children and so forth. By the 6th generation, you’re looking at over 49,000 people claiming that common ancestor. If that single bad gene only affected 50% of them, you’d still account for over half of the difference between the Beehive State and Hawaii, the state reporting the lowest rate of mental issues.
Maybe what’s truly depressing is how many people are looking for the easy explanation that fits their personal bias.