Utah Leads Nation in Rate of Anti-Depressant Use.
February 20, 2002 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Utah Leads Nation in Rate of Anti-Depressant Use. It is interesting (to me) in that the people doing the study credit a "Mother of Zion" syndrome of married Mormon women putting on the happy face regardless of how happy they truly are. My state is up at the top also. Could be all the rain I guess. . .*sigh*
posted by Danf (45 comments total)
I don't get it. Mormons can't have a Pepsi (unless it's caffeine free), but can pop anti-depressant drugs? It's surprising that a religoin could be hypocritical.
posted by Werd7 at 11:18 AM on February 20, 2002

Werd7, in your haste to bash a religion you don't understand, you've pointed to a false hypocracy. There is no Morman stricture against taking doctor prescribed drugs for an affliction or malady.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2002

Wulfgar!, technically I guess it's not a hypocracy. However, when you look at the big picture, the allowance in Mormonism to take doctor prescribed drugs can be viewed as a convenient loophole.
posted by Werd7 at 11:34 AM on February 20, 2002

If I couldn't enjoy an occasional beer or a cocktail now and then, I'd be depressed too...and more open to trying a few legal pharmaceuticals.

"Doctor, pleeeeze, some more of theeeeze..."
posted by groundhog at 11:37 AM on February 20, 2002

Utah also leads the nation in the use of narcotic painkillers such as codeine and morphine-based drugs,the study found, and is ranked seventh in total prescriptions overall. Kentucky ranked first.

Whoa... wait a minute here. This little tidbit is casually tossed in at the bottom of the story. So, isn't this more a story about the tendency to prescribe and ingest all prescription drugs? Should we assume that Mormons are suppressing pain, hence the number one ranking in painkiller consumption?

As my stats prof always told us when we were wee little psychology fledglings -- "correlation does not imply causation."

I cringe when raw numbers come out, and someone instantly starts theorizing about them. This kind of anecdote-based blanket-statement theorizing just contributes to further stereotyping of the group being theorized about, and to perceptoin of psychiatry/psychology as a non-science.
posted by apollo at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2002

It's surprising that a religion could be hypocritical.

Man. I hope that was sarcasm.

As far as I know, the Mormon tenets are specifically about caffeine and hot drinks. Any Mormons care to clarify?

btw: hypocrisy, Mormon
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2002

Danf: what rain? It's a desert. Or maybe you were being sarcastic.

Werd7: It's only a loophole if the rule against caffeine is supposed to prohibit all stimulants and all potentially mind-altering substances of any kind. Maybe it does, I dunno.
posted by bingo at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2002

As a resident of Oregon, I'm guessing Danf was talking 'bout our wet little corner of the world. We're number three! We're number three!
posted by apollo at 11:42 AM on February 20, 2002

Nor is there any official prohibition against caffeine. Many Mormons don't drink coke or pepsi, but that's not doctrine.

I think that Utah is also among the top prescribers of Ritalin to their young boys. Personally I don't buy the "we're more open to seeking help" answer -- but I don't buy the "Mormon-women-are-repressed-and-seeking-drugs-as-a-means-to-cope" either.

The LA Times have recently shown themselves to be pretty anti-Mormon biased, as this article shows. It mentions a study, but doesn't mention who did the study until the fifteenth paragraph. Even then, it doesn't give any actual data or quotes from the study. It wasn't the people doing the study who mention the "Mother of Zion" but a local shrink.

So what is the rate? We know, from reading the article, that it's twice as high as the national average. What's the national average? Is it 2%? Is it 2 out of 1000? 20%? The article doesn't give us actual information, but provides bias, opinion, and inference. What's the reader to think? That all Mormon women need drugs to survive?

It could very well be 20% for all I know. The point is that the article doesn't help me out. Did the numbers change dramatically between when the story was originally published ("last summer") and when it was updated ("January")? Is this news?
posted by terceiro at 11:49 AM on February 20, 2002

How could he be talking about Oregon if the article is about Utah, and the post specifically mentions Utah?
posted by bingo at 11:50 AM on February 20, 2002

bingo, he said "my state is up at the top also."
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:58 AM on February 20, 2002

shit man… i want to move to utah and become a mormon! you can marry several women, and the population is anti-depressant addicted! wow!
posted by trismegisto at 11:58 AM on February 20, 2002

The official Mormon code of health (the "Word of Wisdom") can be found here.

If you're too lazy to read that, it says, basically that "Use of wine, strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks proscribed; Herbs, fruits, flesh, and grain are ordained for the use of man and of animals; Obedience to gospel law, including the Word of Wisdom, brings temporal and spiritual blessings."

So there's no alcohol, no smoking, no "hot drinks" (later specified as coffee and tea), and no recreational drugs. The common misconception that caffeine is prohibited comes because Mormons have long tried to figure out why God wouldn't want them to drink coffee. They figured that since coffee has caffeine, and coffee is bad, then caffeine must be bad. Unfortunately, it's a logical fallacy.

Mormons consume very large amounts of chocolate, which is, of course, a natural source of caffeine. Why? Because we can. I'm a good Mormon man, raising a good Mormon family (outside of Utah) and I drink Coke (tm) products. I do not drink Pepsi because it tastes bad.
posted by terceiro at 11:59 AM on February 20, 2002

a) The east of the State's decently wet, actually. It's really pretty and lush in the spring. Surely there must be county-by-county rainfall stats somewhere...

b) Not to imply causation, but it makes sense to me. It's like Catholic kids turned into punks. Mormonism's very strict. Some people reject discipline pretty violently.
posted by maschnitz at 12:01 PM on February 20, 2002

I found this on the Mormon dietary code. It looks fairly reliable and is full of interesting strictures and their respective exceptions.

[I like the historical injunction forbidding all beer except Danish beer. Looks like someone found about Carlsberg, then.]
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2002

I do not drink Pepsi because it tastes bad.

posted by adampsyche at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2002

trismegisto: thanks for proving my point (except for the fact that you show yourself to be an ignoramus with that comment about polygamy). Exactly what is the rate of use in Utah? How many people? Yeah, it's twice the national average, but how many is that?

maschnitz: I think the article doesn't say that it's a rejection of discipline, but tries to establish that it's a means to comply. If you can't do it on your own, then use drugs to help! However, there's nothing in Mormonism against the use of prescription drugs (and in fact there's a strong belief that modern medicine -- and technology in general -- is a blessing from God), and there's no basis in the actual study that it's caused by the religion.
posted by terceiro at 12:04 PM on February 20, 2002

If you want to see the actual study, you'll have to order it.
posted by iceberg273 at 12:10 PM on February 20, 2002

Does the rate of anti-depressant use have anything to do with heavy consumption of Jell-o?
posted by LeLiLo at 12:16 PM on February 20, 2002

How could he be talking about Oregon if the article is about Utah, and the post specifically mentions Utah?

so, bingo, thanks for admitting that you haven't even read the article. which hasn't stopped you from posting about it.
posted by damn yankee at 12:56 PM on February 20, 2002

(sorry for the thread hijack)

terceiro, is there any rationale behind the prohibition of hot drinks? I couldn't find any in the link you provided.

Also, you mention that later this was specified to mean no coffee or tea, which leads me to a question a 3 year old would ask, but I find interesting: can a mormon drink iced coffee? Iced Tea?
posted by Doug at 1:17 PM on February 20, 2002

Mormons consume very large amounts of chocolate, which is, of course, a natural source of caffeine.

It also boosts serotonin levels, as do most antidepressants.
as I type this, I note several empty mini-musketeers wrappers to the left of my keyboard ...
posted by whatnot at 1:22 PM on February 20, 2002

"The question I would raise is whether there is any evidence that a high level of social demand predicts depression," said Amanda Barusch, a professor in the graduate school of social work at the University of Utah. "Who says that having six kids will make you depressed? There's no evidence in the literature that shows that. Stress is not the same as depression."

Good point.

The Church does not officially require avoidance of caffeine. Many members assume that caffeine should be avoided because it is a stimulant, and a slightly addictive one at that, which is present in tea and coffee, both of which are forbidden drinks. [source]

Ug. All this is pretty silly. Christ and his followers (NOT JOSEPH SMITH) said some more appropriate things...

Romans 14:2
One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

1 Corinthians 10:23
’Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial.

posted by aaronshaf at 1:53 PM on February 20, 2002

I just thought this was interesting. . .I have some inlaws who are Mormon and live in SLC. They are EXTREMELY nice and the fact that I'm a longhair (sort of) and do not display any evidence of Mormonism, or even Christianity does not alter their civil and friendly embrace of me into the family. But their '"bearing up" cheerfully under a lot of stress, that I have seen made something resonate when I saw that article. Possibly a "Stepford Wives" quality to the women in that culture.

I would hope that we could discuss religion and culture, even when it is not our own, without getting to the level of "bashing" it.

And yes bingo I live in Oregon, the land that proudly gave the world Bob Packwood, Tonya Harding, and the Oregon Citizen's Alliance.
posted by Danf at 2:48 PM on February 20, 2002

Since reaching out to the depressed is considered a part of Christian ministry, it makes sense you'd find more depressed people going and getting treatment in a highly Mormon state. Seems like it could be pretty difficult for a depressed Mormon housewife to isolate herself from the other church members.
posted by sheauga at 3:17 PM on February 20, 2002

i had a mormon german teacher who smoked and drank coffee and didn't seem to have a problem with it. dunno about antidepressants, tho...

neil labute kinda writes about "stepford wives" under the surface type stuff.

oregon has the best clouds.
posted by kliuless at 3:53 PM on February 20, 2002

no, paxil has the best clouds.
posted by quonsar at 4:02 PM on February 20, 2002

i belieeeeeeve...
posted by kliuless at 4:31 PM on February 20, 2002

damn yankee: so, bingo, thanks for admitting that you haven't even read the article. which hasn't stopped you from posting about it.

I did read the article. The post mentioned rain and "my state," and Utah but not Oregon; the article mentions Oregon in one sentence that is pretty much tangential to the topic, and it is not the only other state mentioned. Now I get it, but I think my confusion was not totally unwarranted, and I don't think I deserved your personal attack.
posted by bingo at 4:45 PM on February 20, 2002

Wait a minute... hot drinks?!
posted by crunchland at 5:19 PM on February 20, 2002

my mother was a young mother and student at BYU in the 1960's. She has told me stories of friends she had...good, faithful mormon women who could not cope, and kept a bottle of gin or vodka under the sink. After myself and my 6 siblings...i'm always surprised SHE never needed medication. [actually, i'm sure she needed it, but she had friends who were addicted to prescription drugs, and she didn't want to have to deal with that.]

mormons are super-achievers, and create very tight social groups and high expectations. Education is seen as very important, as is developing talents--art, music, dance, sports, etc. Financial security is seen as something that is very important as well. The social structure creates very informed communication networks--the "mormon grapevine"--and so when you have a problem or a success people know about it.

Another thing, mormon girls are raised to be Great! and to be smart and pretty and wholesome and to get married and have a family. The get to the married and having family part and then one day look around and realize they don't know who they are, even though they are in the Role and the Place that they had been heading towards their entire life. I felt the same awkward way as a mormon missionary 10 years ago. I got ulcers and threw up blood and food and had anxiety attacks. I knew other missionaries who went onto anti-depressants. Expectations not met are the cruelest of burdens.

sheauga makes a point, the social structure of the church in utah--and i'm sure similar numbers could be had from a US-wide study--is such that as a mormon you will always have people asking if everything is ok, if there is anything they can do for you etc...and if you are depressed you will be encouraged to get help, whether that is by praying or by getting therapy. My parents are older, and my dad is sick, and when i'm there for a few hours making sure he doesn't use scissors to unbutton his shirt or something like that, there will always be about 3-4 phone calls in an evening asking if all is well. Mormons believe in getting help and in being helpful.

myself, i think happiness should be outside of prescription drugs and religion both. I'm happy, unmedicated, and un-mormon.

[the caffiene coke/pepsi thing is just a good joke, not doctrine]
posted by th3ph17 at 6:12 PM on February 20, 2002

th3ph17: thanks for a thoughtful, insightful post.

[also apologizing for the thread hijack...]
Doug: the rationale behind hot drinks, or, for that matter, alcohol, tobacco, or recreational drugs, isn't ever entirely specified. Any medical evidence that these things are indeed harmful are usually very quickly accepted into Mormon culture with a "Look! We're right! And have been since the 1830s!" But it misses the point entirely.

It's really a faith issue. I don't drink coffee or tea (anything from the tea leaf or coffee bean: no iced versions either. But I do drink herbal teas and hot chocolate), or smoke, or drink alcohol, etc. because I believe that God has asked me not to. I've committed to follow what God says, so I don't. That's it. If God ammended the Word of Wisdom to prohibit celery, I'd stop eating celery.

Does this make me a nutcase? I suppose it depends on one's sense of authority. If my doctor tells me that I should stop drinking milk, I'll probably get a second opinion. I don't inherently trust doctors (something I don't share with most Utahans) -- they're not an authority. I will probably doubt what benefits she promises until I hear it from another doctor. When the second doctor confirms it, I'll probably take her word for it, and cut the milk.

On the other hand, when someone I consider to be a prophet of God tells me that I should not drink coffee, I cut coffee. I've already established that person as an authority, and accept him as speaking for God. And, as is well established in Mormon doctrine, I can always find out for myself if that's the case.
posted by terceiro at 7:27 PM on February 20, 2002

terceiro, thanks for the response. I really appreciate you taking the time.
posted by Doug at 9:05 PM on February 20, 2002

th3ph17 - couldn't have said it better.

Mormon women are encouraged to have lots of babies. (This is so all the spirits floating around have a human body to inhabit) anyway I'm guessing most of those women have major post partum blues.

I once had neighbors who were Mormon. The church knew how much money each of the members earned. The leaders made sure to pressure the congregants until they paid their 10% tithe. My neighbors barely earned enough to pay the rent and buy groceries. They had nothing. The husband was more depressed than the wife because he couldn't provide for his family and give to the church. It was all about meeting the expectations of the church prophets and elders.

BTW -I'm not certain if this practice is common in all of the congregations.
posted by redhead at 9:22 PM on February 20, 2002

Most of this thread seems to have made the assumption that a high rate of anti-depressant use is a bad thing. IMHO, anti-depressants & anti-anxiety drugs are generally under prescribed because people aren't seeking treatment (partly because of social stigma and partly because health insurance plans provide poor coverage of mental health issues). Maybe had Andrea Yates been getting proper mental health treatment a tragedy could have been avoided.
posted by ArkIlloid at 9:52 PM on February 20, 2002

ArkIlloid, in general I agree with you that a lot of people could benefit from medications they've never tried. But do you really think that for some reason, the Mormon population includes a disproportionately large number of people with a setatonin deficit? Do you think that antidepressants are under-prescribed, even for people who don't have a biologically-based illness, but are simply living in a depressing situation?
posted by bingo at 11:43 PM on February 20, 2002

Not to cheerlead, but I have to say I learned some things from this thread. Nice to see a discussion of religion not devolve into the WWF.
posted by Kafkaesque at 8:56 AM on February 21, 2002

I'd like to second pretty much everything that terciero has said. Of course, I don't drink Coke or Pepsi... I prefer Dr. Pepper.
posted by silusGROK at 9:23 AM on February 21, 2002

redhead, i'm far from being an apologist for mormons, but your account of your neighbor sounds odd...i'd say it was more likely that They felt pressured by themselves to pay tithing and pop out babies even when money was tight, and that their view of the church as some entity tracking and pressuring them was their own little personal psychosis.

Money was always tight with my family--7 kids--and my dad worked for the church and still paid more like 15 percent tithing. Not from pressure from the organization, but pressure from within.

It was all about meeting the expectations of the church prophets and elders

i really think it has more to do with the Culture of the church and its members that lead to such high expectations and pressure to excel. The church wants everyone to follow the rules and be good. The Culture of the church members wants everyone to be star atheletes, play piano, sing, raise great families and become great public speakers and successful businessmen. I'd chalk that up to the "pioneer" heritage of the early mormons. They Walked to utah and they expected a lot from their kids i'd gather. Most of my family is still mormon, and so issues of doctrine vs. culture are something that i think about and discuss often.

I'll not defend a single bit of LDS doctrine, but you need to see the difference between church doctrine and church member culture.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:18 AM on February 21, 2002

And Danf spaketh thus:
And yes bingo I live in Oregon, the land that proudly gave the world Bob Packwood, Tonya Harding, and the Oregon Citizen's Alliance.

We also gave the OCA a nice kick in the patoot.

Not to mention we are the land of legal medicinal marijuana, The Shining (scroll waaay down), and we are *NOT* the land of Creed (whew!).

sorry for the slight hijack, I just sort of wanted to defend my native land. Even if there's a big stripe through the middle that just plain sucks. (:
posted by verso at 12:03 PM on February 21, 2002

verso: Don't forget Ken Kesey and Sometimes A Great Notion.
posted by bingo at 12:17 PM on February 21, 2002

and isaac brock moved to cottage grove. head south.
posted by kliuless at 12:24 PM on February 21, 2002

Mormon women are encouraged to have lots of babies

Don't most religions where the faith encourages its followers to find new converts encourage more babies? Catholics included?

Interesting discussion. I too think that most news reports on research findings don't do a very good job of explaining the numbers. Like the recent report about people who sleep more dying earlier. They threw around things like "Those who slept 10 hours a day died much earlier." (made up quote BTW), but they neglect to say from what. These people cetainly didn't have "too much sleep" stamped on their death certificates. :) The article on this study is no different.
posted by terrapin at 2:38 PM on February 21, 2002

Don't most religions where the faith encourages its followers to find new converts encourage more babies?

fyi, Jews are, at least biblically, encouraged to have babies too ("be fruitful and multiply" etc.), but Judaism is a non-prostletyzing religion.
posted by bingo at 4:14 PM on February 21, 2002

th3ph17 - getting back late here, your probably right about the culture thing.
I was just repeating what my neighbors had expressed to me about their dealings with the church.
posted by redhead at 8:48 PM on February 21, 2002

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