Home is more than just the place you live: the state you call home can have a significant impact on your family’s mental health. Across the US, mental health care varies widely.
Here, we examine 8 environmental factors that influence mental health, from the cost of living to divorce rate, to see which states rank best for your family’s mental health. We’ve ranked each state from 1-50, in order of best to worst. The lower the score, the better they rank!
New Jersey comes in as the number one best state to live in the US for your family’s mental health in 2022. Data has shown that symptoms of mental illness among adults in New Jersey (16.14%) are lower than the national average in the US (21.1%)1. Additionally, New Jersey’s geographic position offers access to some of the best mental health treatment across the river in New York. With a low divorce rate, high hospital availability, and diverse population, New Jersey also provides a unique opportunity for families to live close to parks, all of which can increase mental wellness.
In second place is Illinois. This state offers a range of living opportunities from bustling cities to rural areas surrounded by lakes and parks which can help you and your family to get away from it all. In Illinois, housing rent is consistently lower than the national average. Mental health care ranks towards the middle of our list for Illinois, but a low divorce rate, easy access to hospitals and parks help this state move to second place.
Coming in at third place is Pennsylvania. The state also features many of the same positive factors as New Jersey including having great access to mental health care. One of the key factors which may drive families to move to Pennsylvania is the low cost of living and low income tax. Rent prices are also low compared to neighboring states, averaging 50-70% lower prices across the board.
Michigan comes in at fourth and Minnesota in fifth. Some states which are lower in the overall list, however, may shine in some of the factors we’ve implemented! For example, California ranks first for the lowest divorce rate nationwide and has high population diversity, while it ranks at the very bottom for opportunity rankings and cost of living. With such extremes, it’s no wonder that California ranks in the middle for overall mental health.
Ranking the Best and Worst States for your Family’s Mental Health
The states featured most frequently on these presented factors are New Jersey, California, New York, and Hawaii. From incredible National Parks like Yosemite and Haleakalā to world-class mental health care in New York and California, these states are some of the best for your family’s physical and mental health.
Top 5 Featured Rankings
Top 5 States for Mental Health Care:
2. New Jersey
Top 5 States for Opportunities:
3. New Hampshire
Top 5 States for High School Graduation Rate:
4. North Dakota
5. New Hampshire
Top 5 States for State and National Park Coverage:
5. New Jersey
Top 5 States for Least Expensive Cost of Living:
5. New Mexico
Top 5 States for Lowest Divorce Rates:
3. New Jersey
4. New York
Top 5 States for Hospital Availability:
4. New York
Top 5 States for Diversity:
4. New Jersey
5. New York
Thoughts from the Experts
Nicholas Mancini, LPC, LMFT & Eric Hilborn, LPC, Cofounders of Collective Counseling Solutions and Psychiatrist Dana Siperstein, MD give us insight one why some of these factors are important for you and your family’s mental health.
Q. Why is considering environmental factors important to understanding mental health?
“The social stress theory of mental illness suggests that the predominant factors for development of mental illness stem from one’s status in our culture’s social hierarchy, exposure to adverse childhood experiences, and vulnerability to stress due to lack of access to proper social and professional support systems and inadequate educational resources.
It is important to understand the social etiology of mental illness to reduce stigmatization, inspire political advocacy for social programming and change that can serve as protective and preventive measures for development of mental illness, and reduce over-reliance on medical model assumptions that are too reductionist and can invalidate the impact of a person’s lived experience when they seek mental health services.” - Mancini & Hilborn
“It is crucial to understand who someone is in the context of where they come from. It is impossible to understand someone’s symptoms or how best to help them without acknowledging the environmental factors that play a role in their lives. Do they have family who are supportive and understand the role of treatment? Do they have access to transportation to get to the pharmacy to pick up the medication I prescribed? Do they have access to a safe and comfortable space where virtual work can adequately be conducted?” - Dr. Siperstein
Q. Does where you live matter? How have you seen location influence the mental health of clients who live in different states?
“The most dramatic impact we have observed from state-to-state centers around accessibility to care issues. One of the most significant barriers to seeking mental health services is the financial cost, and if you live in a state with a higher cost of living, it is much less likely that counselors and psychiatrists in your area will accept your insurance due to lower reimbursement rates that make sustaining an insurance-based practice unfeasible.
At its most catastrophic, a lack of access to affordable outpatient counseling combined with limited access to mobile and inpatient crisis services can result in poorer prognosis and increased rates of suicide for those with lower socioeconomic status, creating disparities in treatment outcomes for those most vulnerable to major mental illness.” - Mancini & Hilborn
Our findings from this research have revealed that although states are taking steps to consistently improve the quality of life and mental health of their population, it is also clear that there are still factors that need to be considered to help boost the overall quality of living for families in the US.
Regardless of which states are ranked the best or worst to live in, every person and family deserves additional support when considering serious topics such as mental health awareness, demand for inclusivity, and available resources ranging from health to work opportunities.
The overall ranking is based on 8 different factors linked to raising a healthy family. Our team used the ranking metrics for each of the factors in each state to calculate the overall sum of the rankings. With this, we were able to get the rankings with the lowest number being the best-ranked state and the highest number being placed at the lower end of the scale or ranking. The data used was the most available source available.
Mental Health Care - This data set shows overall mental health statistics across the US. The specific data we chose combines the overall prevalence of mental illness among adults and children and the ease of access to mental health care. The data set showed that in general, states with a lower prevalence of mental illness provided better access to mental health care.
Cost of Living - This data set provides an index comparing how each state fairs in terms of cost of living. The key factors that indicated a good cost of living were housing price, transportation and healthcare.
Opportunity Ranking - This data set combines affordability, economic opportunity, and gender and race parity to measure a state’s capacity to provide opportunity.
Divorce Rate - This data set accounts for the divorce rate in each state.
Graduation Rate - This data set compares how each state fairs in high school graduation rates.
Hospital Availability - This data set shows the number of available hospitals in each state. The data also showcases the number of beds available, total discharges and even the overall gross revenue.
State and National Park Coverage - This data set ranks the largest available state and national parks available for by state.
Diversity - This data set compares how each state fairs in terms of a diverse population, diversity in the workplace, communities and systems.
Mental Health America. (2020). Ranking The States. https://mhanational.org/issues/2020/ranking-states