When God Is Not Enough: Religious States Have Highest Rates of Anti-Depressant Use

They say that religion is the opiate of the masses, but it seems that the opiates of the religious are antidepressants. 


A study released yesterday confirmed that Mississippi remains the most religious state in the Union, followed by a handful of its southern belt brothers: Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, as well as the Mormon stronghold of Utah. The Gallup poll showed that 58 percent of all Mississippians identify as “very religious.” The least religious states in the U.S. are the former stomping grounds of the very, very religious Puritans: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

But life in these highly faithful states doesn’t seem to be all its cracked up to be. The most religious states in the U.S. share another trait: the highest use of anti-depressants. 

Utah has long been the nation’s capital of happy pill popping, with its citizens twice as likely to be on anti-depressants than the general U.S. population. But the rest of the observant states aren’t far behind. Of the top-ten most religious states, nine have higher than average use of anti-depressants.

Some states have startlingly medicated populations. 

In Utah, Louisiana and Arkansas--the 2nd, 4th and 5th most religious states in the Union--nearly 20 percent of the population is on some form of anti-depressants, according to a 2006 study by one of the largest prescription companies. 

The rest of the highly religious states aren’t far behind. Mississippi (most religious), Alabama (third most religious), South Carolina (6th), Tennessee (7th), North Carolina (8th) and Oklahoma (10th) have above average rates of anti-depressant use, with 15 to 17 percent of the citizens medicated. Of the top-ten most religious states, only one--Georgia--isn’t disproportionately addicted to anti-depressants. Nationally, the prescription rate was about 14 percent.

Anti-depressants weren’t the only medication being doled out in the most religious states. In fact, a state’s level of religiosity correlates with a state’s overall medication rate. Of the top ten most religious states in the Union, six are also on the list of top-ten most medicated states.

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