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'Happiest' States Show Highest Suicide Rates: Study
Date:4/25/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Countries and U.S. states that report the greatest number of satisfied inhabitants also report the highest suicide rates, new British research indicates.

Seemingly contradictory, the findings are probably explained by what the study authors describe as the tendency to constantly compare oneself to others.

"Deep down we are creatures of comparison, even though we may not always realize that," explained study author Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick, so living in a place where there are lots of satisfied people may make depressed people feel even more desolate.

That tendency to compare has been well known about the average person, he said. "What our study shows, rather remarkably, is that is it also true of the extremely depressed," Oswald noted.

The finding is published in the April issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

For the study, Oswald gathered both U.S. and international data. It included a comparison of 1.3 million Americans picked at random and another sample of 1 million Americans involving suicide decisions.

Oswald found that a range of nations, including Canada, the United States, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland -- all with relatively high happiness levels -- also had high suicide rates.

They tried to confirm the relationship by looking at two sets of data from the United States only. They found the states with many people who were satisfied with life showed higher suicide rates than states that had residents with typically lower levels of satisfaction.

Utah, for instance, ranked first in life satisfaction but has the ninth highest rate of suicide in the country.

New York ranks 45th in life satisfaction, but had the lowest suicide rate.

When Oswald adjusted for factors such as age, gender, education, marital status, jobs
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