California ranks fourth from top in national mental health rankings

A new analysis has examined how each state’s mental health data compares across the country, with California ranking significantly above the national average.

The study, conducted by Leafwell, examined various health indicators for each state, including levels of frequent mental distress, physical inactivity, number of poor mental health days, life expectancy, access to exercise and median household income. An overall health score was calculated for each state out of 100, leading to a ranking based on these critical health metrics.

California has calculated a total score of 79.5, placing it fourth in the overall national rankings. With a $84,800 median annual income 23 percent higher than the US average, California also exceeds the average life expectancy by three years, reaching the age of 81. This state experiences fewer poor mental health days as only 13 percent of the population reportedly show frequent mental distress, compared to other states which collectively have 14 percent. California also has a relatively high 79 percent physical activity rate among the population, as 95 percent have access to exercise opportunities – the national average is 81 percent.

Commenting on the study, Mitchell L. Doucette, PhD., M.S., Director of Research at Leafwell, said, “As we delve into the intricacies of California’s health metrics, it becomes evident that factors such as access to exercise opportunities, median household income, and mental health resources play pivotal roles in shaping the well-being of communities.

“By highlighting the attributes of California and other leading states in the top rankings, we aim to inspire conversations and initiatives that prioritize comprehensive approaches to improve the quality of life for residents nationwide.”

Securing the top spot is Hawaii, boasting a health score of 91.4. Despite its relatively small population of 1.4 million, Hawaii is often synonymous with a stress-free environment. It stands out with the highest average life expectancy among all states, reaching an impressive 82.3 years. The state also excels in mental well-being, experiencing an average of only 3.6 days of poor mental health per month. Remarkably, only 11 percent of the population reports more than 14 days of poor mental health in a given month, reflecting low levels of frequent mental distress.

West Virginia has the lowest overall well-being, earning a health score of just 5.6. With a population of 1.7 million, a concerning 19 percent of residents report experiencing frequent mental distress, which translates to more than 14 days of poor mental health in a given month. This alarming percentage is the highest across the United States. Additionally, the state faces the challenge of the second-worst life expectancy at 74.3 years. This figure is notably four years below the national average, reflecting a critical health disparity within the state.

Sources: University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
Methodology: The study analyzed the mental and physical well-being across all 50 states. An index was developed by gathering statistics on median household income, frequent mental distress, poor mental health days, access to exercise opportunities, physical inactivity rate, life expectancy, and population. By averaging the data and combining each variable, a health score out of 100 was calculated, respectfully ranking each state.