Comments about ‘Utahns think about suicide more than other Americans, study shows’

Return to article »

Published: Friday, Oct. 21 2011 6:00 p.m. MDT

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Layton, UT

If we do take this survey at face value, here might be some contributing factors that make Utah state unique:
1- An above-average number of youth. I have 5 'religious' teens in my house, and despite their upbringing, still go through the same emotional rollercoaster all teens do. More teens equals more teen-related issues like thinking about suicide.
2- Above-average cultural teen expectations (push to succeed, be 'perfect' etc.) and walla you'll have a few more stressed-out kids. At our own Davis High they push the kids VERY hard to succeed.
3- Having lived in other states like Florida I would say that the non-Mormons in Utah tend to 'spin out' more than average with drugs, alcohol, etc. It's like they want to jump to the far extreme away from the Mormon 'clean' culture. But I am only guessing at why. Hence our high substance-abuse rate like Meth, etc.

Bountiful, UT

Two potential factors in Utah's statistics: genetics and topography.

There is a relatively high percentage of Scandanavians in Utah, a population that has a higher predisposition to alcoholism & related syndromes, such as depression.

Utah is also a relatively high-elevation state. There are studies that correlate higher rates of suicide with higher elevations, with reduced oxygen levels in the brain being a potential culprit. (People with sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea also have higher rates of depression, associated with lower blood oxygenation to the brain. Higher elevations exacerbate breathing problems, obviously.)

Certainly other factors to be identfied, as well.


I'm not seeing many of the posters suggest that underlying mental illness is probably a cause. Mental illness is more to blame for suicidal thinking than affiliation with a certain religion. Religion helps people cope with the difficulties of life and offers up hope to those without much. We also live in difficult times economically which makes living difficult at best.

Salt Lake City, UT

Why does depression ravage Utahns? Some of it may be genetics, e.g. Swedes, who I think are prone to melancholia. Just one possibility.

Brigham City, UT

I was in a neighboring state (I won't mention the name) for a weekend 5 years ago and heard they have 1 in 8 kids take their life between middle school and high school; I know this study may just be on adults, but this neighboring state traced their problem to being isolated geographically which in turn translates to other types of isolation. Life is complex; you can live in big cities with it's crime, or live in rural areas (with less crime and less jobs) where there is limited health care and limited resources. We need health care for all---and it will be here soon (regardless of who is president).

one old man
Ogden, UT

Experts remind us that 87.92% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Remember that number, 92.4%. It's important any time you evaluate a story containing a statistical report of any kind.

no fit in SG
St.George, Utah

Yea, us non-mormons are just a bunch of losers. Taking drugs, drinking beer, watching wrestling on the tube. We gorge ourselves on, junk food and alcohol, party all the time, instead of going to work, get arrested for all kinds of abuse every few months.
Us mormons, we cause all the trouble throughout every state. We just ruin everything we touch...just ask the neighbors.

Chris Degn
Seoul, Korea

I moved to Utah in the 1980s. It a wonderful place to live and work. Great people, beautiful scenery. I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young man in high school and have never regretted that decision. I also went to BYU, the church-sponsored school and served a mission for the church. But, as someone who occasionally counsels those who are suicidal, I can say this... Peer pressure and societal attitudes, stereotypes, and stigmas influence choices we make. I am a much happier Latter-day Saint, Mormon, or whatever you want to call me *outside* of Utah. My wife and I have decided we will not retire there when we finish my career that takes me everywhere but Utah. And the reason for that is simple. We are stronger in our faith and more peaceful in it, ironically, where we are in the minority. The "mission field" is the place for us.

If you're having thoughts of suicide, don't listen to the voice of pressure, but find someone who loves you and get help. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Lehi, UT

An interesting stat that negative people rarely talk about is that active Mormons have very low suicide rates. So, we really can't blame the Mormons for this one, as fun as it is. One thing I notice about Utah, and especially Salt Lake and the Tribune, is there is so much negativity about the State, and especially about Mormons, I think people who have to see the bad in everything are depressing and are perhaps depressed.....don't know though, but I see it in the comments...

Lehi, UT

Several people have made some good points, altitude, vitamin D, negative attitudes, high rates of teens, all make a difference. One thing from the article that I never thought about is the fact that the elderly, over 85 I think, in Utah were most likely to think they were "better off dead." I'm curious about how these questions were asked. I know that, while we are a young State, Utahans also tend to live longer than others.

I'm starting to wonder about study methods, since Utah is rated happiest and etc.

Junction city, Oregon

I had major thoughts about this. Then i left utah and it all went away. Maybe its the water.

North Ogden, UT

Perspective from a born and raised Utah Mormon. LDS leaders teach us stuff like "Your eternal destiny will not be the result of chance but of choice. It is never too late to begin to choose eternal life!" - from Oct. 2011 Gen. Conf.

You've studied LDS and other religions, including the histories. But what if you do not believe in religion? You've lived your entire life according to the teachings, but have never received key answers to prayers... And all your family is active members and the majority of their talk and family events focus on the church. Then there are questions about why your boy is not going to scouts, etc. etc. And referring back to the quote I listed, if you are not a believer or not doing all the church stuff, then you not choosing the right... It can wear someone down.

South Jordan, UT

There are significant reasons for Utah's extremes. We're also highest in anti-depressant usage and pornography subscriptions. The simple truth is that the broad culture of the state is one that does not work for a large number of people, leaving them to feel outcast and alone. Conversely it does work for a lot of people, causing them to feel elated and joyous. This leaves very little room for the moderately tempered.

Ivins, UT

I agree with 10CC. Genetics influence the likelihood of developing mental illness and people of Scandinavian descent have a higher incidence of mental illness. Scandinavians are also more likely to develop certain other health conditions that are often accompanied by depression, such as fibromyalgia, rosacea, polymyalgia rheumatica, giant cell arteritis, vitamin D or B12 deficiency, and numerous others. You can check the statistics for Scandinavian countries and find that they have higher suicide rates than the rest of Europe. Utah was settled by a much higher proportion of Scandinavians than most other states, so we are lucky that our rate of actual suicides is not the highest in the country. Evidently, we are also rated as the happiest people and one Times article by Maia Szalavitz suggests that being around happy people when we are depressed makes us even more depressed because we are comparing ourselves too much. I'm still thinking about that, but overall I would say it's genetics.

Provo, UT

I think you have to look at the questions on any survey. The stats showed that suicide rates were average, but that the thoughts on "Suicide" were higher. As a statistician I look at the question leading to the findings. Here is asked have you thought of hurting yourself or would you be better off dead. I think most Mormons do think that they would be better off dead, but that they wouldn't hurt themselves. If the survey asked do you have plans of hurting yourself or have you thought of hurting yourself and not included the other part that the numbers would have been average.


I certainly wouldn't want to suggest the obvious, but perhaps it has to do with the fact that the state of Utah is 60% Mormon and the male kids find difficulties with having to spend 2 years knocking on doors. Or maybe being taught that they, mere humans, can become gods if they do enough good deeds, as the works based religion of Mormonism teaches. Or maybe they can't swallow the teaching that the planet or star Kolob is full of spirits waiting to enter the bodies of newborns here on earth. Maybe they're having trouble reconciling the idea that there are five (5) sacred texts: The "Book of Mormon"; the "Doctrine and Covenants"; the "Pearl of Great Price"; the "Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"; and the Holy Bible. The first four (4) of those books don't jibe with the Holy Bible. Christians believe there is only one (1) sacred text-tyhe Holy Bible- so clearly, Mormons are not Christians in that belief. Just maybe the Mormon religion is behind the problem.It is all so confusing and demanding that one be a perfect boy or girl.

to comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments