Utah Still the Happiest State in the Union

December 4, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 9:02 am   Category: Happiness,Mormon Culture/Practices

Utah was atop yet another list of happiest states in the USA.

I’ll bet that really chaps the hides of critics and enemies of Mormonism. For some reason that makes me happy (and I don’t even live in Utah).

35 Comments »

  1. I am happy for them.

    Also, did your link go where you intended?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — December 4, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  2. I’m so happy you’re so happy that we’re so happy here in Utah.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — December 4, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  3. Link fixed. Thanks Eric.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  4. Significantly lower neurotic levels in Utah.

    I was also interested that in this very short article it mentions twice that the presence of gays and artist help in happiness. They can express themselves.

    I am not sure what to say about that.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — December 4, 2009 @ 10:37 am

  5. Good point Eric. As ever, the article reveals more about the author of the article than the actual data being cited. We all like to highlight the parts of data we like and gloss over the parts that we don’t like.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2009 @ 10:49 am

  6. Utah still the happiest State…

    Another reason why this is, is because both of your articles are quoting the exact same research survey. :)

    Gallup Organization’s Well-Being Index.

    But don’t let that overshadow the happiness!

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  7. Yeah I noticed that too. Looks like the data set is the same with just another group analyzing it. So the “still” in my post is not accurate.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  8. I think Utah is a very happy state.

    I also like the take of the new article, that the happiness is due in part to wealth and tolerance.

    I am sure tolerance can increase happiness, but the wealth part may be a challenge to our usual mantra that money can’t buy happiness. (I think to an extent it can)

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  9. Also I really haven’t taken the time to read the specific questions of the research survey in question, but I strongly believe different people define happiness in different terms.

    Happiness can be a lot of different things:

    -A good family relationship.
    -Healthy loved ones.
    -Healthy self.
    -The absence or low incidence of highly stressful situations.
    -Wealth, financial safety, being debt free.
    -Low incidence of uncertainty.
    Etc etc etc.

    This is why I usually disagree with the position that being termed the happiest state translates into having lower incidence of clinical depression/depression. Which is what some of these posts intend to convey. These are usually the two battling fronts: Either UT is happy or else UT is depressed.

    There may be a myriad of things making other states unhappier than UT and still have lower incidence of clinical depression than UT, therefore I don’t think the two apparently opposing statements are mutually exclusive.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  10. Weren’t Utahns like the most depressed not two years ago? As I joked with Dave at A Soft Answer (he linked to this a few weeks back), Utahns are depressed when a Republican is in office and are happy when a Democrat is in office. :)

    Comment by Dan — December 4, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

  11. Well the anti-Mormons were loving a report some years ago about Utah having the highest rate of anti-depressant subscriptions. As I noted last time, I’m sure they take this new info only as evidence that anti-depression meds work great.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

  12. I’m sure they take this new info only as evidence that anti-depression meds work great.

    That’s funny.

    For the most part I don’t care what anti-Mormons think. But I also remember the claims that UT is a high consumer of anti-depressants. I wish that as members of the Church, we would consider that type of data much more as an internal analysis, rather than, “is this a tool for anti-Mormons to point at us.”

    If the data is correct, it is ok to internally analyze ourselves to learn if we can do something to change the situation.

    I find it a lost opportunity that instead of practicing an honest internal analysis, we adopt hypersensitive and hyperdefensive positions, and we simply slip into a stubborn denial mode much similar to the stubborn positions of the anti-Mormons we criticize so much. “Nothing is wrong with us, we are very happy and period. It’s all anti-Mormon efforts to make us look bad.”

    Anti-Mormons will always find ways to point at us, so who cares what they have to say? Rather, I wish we didn’t fall into that easily offended mode and tried to understand the real source of the data coming out.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

  13. Manuel: it is ok to internally analyze ourselves to learn if we can do something to change the situation.

    You assume with your comment that things other than genes are responsible for requiring anti-depressants. What if the proclivity to depression or anxiety or whatever is mostly genetic? With the way Mormons procreate that is entirely possible after all. If so then changing the culture or church wouldn’t solve the problems with depression/anxiety at all.

    Further, this latest report makes a pretty strong case that there is no happiness problem in Utah to begin with.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  14. If so then changing the culture or church wouldn’t solve the problems with depression/anxiety at all.

    Key words “if so.” We don’t know that. Thus the need for the internal analysis. And no. Suggesting an analysis isn’t assuming anything, rather it is the opposite. It is an effort to find real root causes rather than working on assumptions, which is what your “if so” statement is pretty much doing.

    Further, this latest report makes a pretty strong case that there is no happiness problem in Utah to begin with.

    Like I said in my prior comment, I don’t think the linear correlation you are making of happiness and depression being inversely proportional to each other is true. We can have the rating of the happiest state in the union and still have higher incidences of depression than unhappier states.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  15. I think this poll was taken in Provo…last Monday.

    Comment by Riley — December 4, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

  16. it is ok to internally analyze ourselves to learn if we can do something to change the situation.

    If you read it carefully, my statement makes room for your proposed genetic hypothesis. Note this line “to learn IF we can do something to change the situation.”

    Clearly, if the analysis yielded information that depression in UT is mostly caused by genetics, then the outcome can be”No. There is nothing more we can do but to treat this affliction with anti-depressants.” Which is fine, and which is one of the many possiblities of my statement.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

  17. Well I certainly don’t disagree with you in principle about self analysis Manuel. But in practice I think your suggestions have some problems in this case. When you same “it is ok to internally analyze ourselves to learn if we can do something to change the situation” some clarification is needed. Who is the “we” you are referring to? I personally don’t even live in Utah so it doesn’t apply to me. Do you have some department of the Utah state government in mind to somehow “internally analyze” the citizens of Utah to learn if the state government can “change the situation”? If not who is supposed to internally analyze and change things in Utah? Further what problem needs to be changed?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

  18. In fact, the analysis can actually yield tools that you could use against anti-Mormon criticism. The analysis could yield proof that there is no correlation between UT depression and demanding church callings. It can yieald proof that there is no correlation between depression and having larger families, and the many other things anti-Mormons use to attack the Mormon culture.

    As long as we remain ignorant as to whether there is a correlation or not between depression and those factor, we will have as strong of an argument as the anti-Mormons do.

    And to tell you the truth, being passionately involved in an argument where both parties don’t have proper data to back themselves up seems awfully foolish and unproductive to me. Both parties will keep telling themselves whatever they want to hear, without knowing what the reality is.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

  19. Well, the analysis obviously would depend on the data from the survey. If the survey says Utahn’s consume more antidepressants than anyone else, then the analysis can focus on this very fact by branching out possibilities.

    Who in UT is using these anti-depressants? Is it non-members? Is it members?

    If the use is found to be more within members, then we can analyze further. Is it the stake presidents? is it the bishops? is it the children of these leaders? the wives?

    What do these patients state vocally makes them depressed? Is it that they feel their religion is too demanding? Is it perhaps the opposite and perhaps their religion helps mitigate their depression to a certain extent?

    Who is the “we” you are referring to?

    Utahns of course. This is the demographic being used “Utah.” Anti-Mormnos will obviously change this demographic to mean “Mormons.” But that is exactly the fallacy of the lack of analysis. Mormons will then react “NO WAY IT’S NOT US!!!”

    Yet, if Mormons want to prove it isn’t their particular problem, then the analyzed group “we” becomes the Mormons of course. Only then can we say, we have done well designed analyses (we have very capable educational and research institutions inn UT) and we have not found these x,y,z (whatever was analyzed) factors of our culture do not show a correlation in the increase of the use of anti-depressants.

    A particular section in mind? Not any particular but a well designed analysis will call for the many groups that may be differently affected when it comes to anti-depressant usage: different wards (rich vs poor), men with certain callings, college students, high school students, elementary school students, children of divorced parents, senior citizens, minorities, women with children, women with no children, single people, married people, divorced people, non-members. Demographic groups that exist within UT that could yield explanations as to who is it really that struggles the most with depression.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  20. First, why are you focusing on the anti-depressant survey Manuel? (I thought we were talking about this happiness survey.) That anti-depressant thing is a different study than the one this post is discussing so it is a bit of a threadjack here. Second, have you googled that study? No doubt a lot of analyzing of the data has already been done. Plus I remember several long blog debates on it back in the day. No doubt that would be a place to discuss that topic. This is not the place.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  21. Because, this was posted on one of my previous comments (#9):

    This is why I usually disagree with the position that being termed the happiest state translates into having lower incidence of clinical depression/depression. Which is what some of these posts intend to convey. These are usually the two battling fronts: Either UT is happy or else UT is depressed.

    I feel that comment was well within context, but you are the author of the original post so I will respect your judgment whether it is a threadjack or not.

    But if you see, another commenter (Dan #10) immediately brought up the anti-depressant issue, which I think proved my point in my comment #9.

    Then, not only did you respond on comment #11 with the same issue, but also linked to your previous post that contains the following statement:

    The anti-Mormon crowd, or at least the anti-Utah crowd might be in mourning today because of this study… Seems like some folks just can’t do enough crowing about that old “Utah has the highest anti-depressant usage in the country” report that has gotten so much play in recent years. (Of course maybe the anti-depressant companies can use both reports to show how good their products work…)

    Therefore proving my point further that the battlefronts are “Happy UT vs UT on anti-depressants.”

    Therefore, I am finding a bit disingenuous your statement that the exchange regarding anti-depressants is a threadjack and therefore an extraneous subject in this thread. C’mon.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

  22. Well forgive my grouchiness Manuel. I only mentioned that other study as a snarky aside but it seems it is becoming the center of this discussion.

    My problem with your “someone oughta analyze that data” is that it seems highly likely to me that the data has been analyzed extensively already. Is there some reason you believe the data from both studies hasn’t been analyzed yet? Have you searched for the analysis? If it can’t be found are you equipped to analyze the data?

    I agree with the basic point that someone should analyze the data if that helps.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  23. My problem with your “someone oughta analyze that data” is that it seems highly likely to me that the data has been analyzed extensively already.

    Frankly I am ignorant on whether there is such research or not. So, you got me there.

    Is there some reason you believe the data from both studies hasn’t been analyzed yet?

    I think it is because the arguments I come across don’t cite any findings of any further analysis, rather they cite opinions of how the original data can be explained.

    Are you equipped to do so?

    Absolutely not. :) I am a manufacturing engineer, therefore, finding root causes to unwanted results and implementing corrective actions to fix those root causes is what I get paid for. I think this explains a bit better my position. But I woudln’t pretend to be able to execute a socio-demographic analysis, that’s way out of my range.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  24. Woo hoo Idaho got 11. We’ll take it.

    Comment by AYdUbYA — December 4, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

  25. Potatoes can make anyone happy!

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

  26. Happiness is a choice. The corollary of my view is that we have choice between being happy and sad. There are two corollaries to my corollary. If you have the choice between being happy and sad, and you choose sad, you’re really not very bright. In addition, we’re accountable for our own happiness.

    Comment by Blake — December 5, 2009 @ 10:05 am

  27. BTW my comment above is given for free because it is priceless.

    Comment by Blake — December 5, 2009 @ 10:05 am

  28. Ha.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 5, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  29. mutatis mutandis, sure.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 5, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

  30. Blake: “Happiness is a choice.”

    Yes, it’s ultimately very simple, but it is never simplistic. Many folks in the throes of mortality don’t even know that such a decision is possible.

    Comment by Jack — December 6, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  31. Jack: You’re absolutely correct. Those who choose sadness may choose to blame their circumstances, their parents who screwed them up or their bad lot in life or whatever excuse they need. Life is a challenge and and adventure no matter how we look at it — and it can challenge the basic truth that so long as we are free, we are free to choose to be happy in whatever circumstances we may be. The greater challenge arises when folks have freely chosen to forget and forfeit their freedom.

    Life is set up to take us out our comfort zones over and over again — and for the simple reason that no growth ever takes place inside a comfort zone. For many, taking accountability for their own choice to be happy is the most uncomfortable of all. But allowing others (and ourselves) freedom to be free from their (and our) past by forgiving and letting go, by choosing to never judge another as a finished product that can be finally judged before life is finished promotes the freedom to be as one chooses in the present moment of choice. It really is that simple within the full complexity of a mortal life.

    Comment by Blake — December 6, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  32. This new report has Utah at #23.

    It is all starting to sound like wild guessing isn’t it?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

  33. New study: Utah not really that happy. New list here. Nwe study lists UT at 23 (pretty average) and trashes reliability of previous study. Touche!

    From article:

    “When human beings give you an answer on a numerical scale about how satisfied they are with their lives, it is best to pay attention. Their answers are reliable,” said Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England. “This suggests that life-satisfaction survey data might be very useful for governments to use in the design of economic and social policies,” Oswald said.

    The happy-states list, however, doesn’t match up with a similar ranking reported last month, which found that the most tolerant and wealthiest states were, on average, the happiest. Oswald says this past is based on raw averages of people’s happiness in a state, and so doesn’t provide meaningful results.

    Comment by Manuel — December 18, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

  34. I beat you to the punch Manuel.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

  35. I know! I just noticed! :)

    Comment by Manuel — December 18, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

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