Variance in Behavioral Health by US State

state similarity index rubric - culture category - behavioral health statistics

The State Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar states are to each other relative to other states. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. 20% of the index is based on culture. 10% of a state’s culture score (2% of the overall State Similarity Index score) is based on data related to behavioral health in the country. The following paragraphs explain which four aspects were used in the calculation.

Tobacco Use

The rate of smoking varies greatly between states. In West Virginia and Kentucky, over 23% of adults smoke tobacco. High poverty rates, low median incomes, limited access to healthcare, and historically weaker tobacco control measures contribute to higher tobacco use rates in these states.However, in Utah, less than 8% of adults smoke. A big reason is that the Mormon church discourages the practice. California is the second lowest at 10%. The state’s strong public health infrastructure, combined with a cultural shift and increased awareness, has led to a decline in tobacco use rates.

Source: United Health Foundation

States were categorized by percentage of people who smoke:
7.9% – 10.55%, 10.55% – 13.2%, 13.2% – 15.85%, 15.85% – 18.5%, 18.5% – 21.15%, 21.15% – 23.8%

Alcohol Use

In the United States, New Hampshire consumes the most alcohol per capita. The state borders Massachusetts and Vermont, two states that have stricter alcohol regulations and higher taxes. Many people cross the border to buy alcohol there. Utah consumes the least alcohol per capita. The Mormon church not only discourages tobacco use, but alcohol consumption as well. Utah has some of the strictest alcohol laws in the country.

Source: Vinepair

States were categorized by gallons of alcohol consumed per capita:
1.3-1.9, 1.9-2.5, 2.5-3.1, 3.1-3.7, 3.7-4.3, 4.3-4.9

Illicit Drug Use

Unsurprisingly, Utah is one of the states with the least amount of illicit drug use in the country, given it also has low rates of alcohol consumption and smoking. Nebraska and Kansas also have low rates. Meanwhile, Vermont and Oregon are two of the states with the highest amount of illicit drug use. These states are known to have a more permissive and liberal culture. As a result, their progressive drug policies focus on harm reduction rather than strict criminalization.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

States were categorized by percentage of people using illicit drugs in the past month:
5-6.75, 6.75-8.5, 8.5-10.25, 10.25-12, 12-13.75, 13.75-15.5

Suicide Rate

Suicide rates can vary greatly from state to state. New Jersey has the lowest suicide rate, while Wyoming and Montana, have around four times more deaths per capita. Interestingly enough, New Jersey is also the most densely populated state, while Wyoming is the second most sparsely populated state. In the United States, rural states tend to have higher suicide rates than states with large urban areas, like California, Illinois, and New York.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

States were categorized by suicide rate per 100,000:
8-11, 11-14, 14-17, 17-20, 20-23, 23-26

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