Today's the Happiest Day of the Year!

Many of us suffer from (mild) depression -- some situational (breast cancer), some not -- from time to time. But did you know that April is the month people feel depressed the most?  Or that North Dakota is the most depressed state in the nation?  Or that today, August 11, is the day people feel happiest all year?

According to a story by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz at nytimes.com, a Google search produced these facts, based on how often -- and where -- the word "depression" is searched online.  Not everyone searching the word, of course, is depressed, but Stephens-Davidowitz says it's enough for "meaningful patterns" to "emerge."

The state with the lowest rate of depression?  Surprisingly, Virginia (with all those D.C. people living there?!).  The city with the highest rate is Presque Isle, Me.; the city with the lowest, not surprisingly, San Francisco. I'm always happy when I'm there!

"Depression is, unsurprisingly, highest on Mondays and lowest on Saturdays. The date on which depression is lowest is Dec. 25, followed by a few days surrounding it," he reports.

And the Great Recession figures in here, too.  A one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate was associated "with a 2 percent increase in depression queries," Stephens-Davidowitz writes.

This was very shocking to me.  The reason for most depression in January is temperature.  "Temperature accounted for so much of an area’s depression rate that there was not much room left for other factors," Temperature accounted for so much of an area’s depression rate that there was not much room left for other factors," he notes.

Stephens-Davidowitz, who is an intern at Google, primarily wrote this story about how medical searches give us fascinating stats about mental health, after analyzing patterns of data.  He suggests that mental health professionals could learn a lot from this,

Could depression be mitigated as easily as moving to a warmer climate? "The data imply that moving, for example, from the city with the 30th coldest climate in the United States (Chicago) to the city with the warmest (Honolulu) lowers the probability of September-to-April depression by some 40 percent."

Stephens-Davidowitz posits that studies show the effectiveness of antidepressants "decrease the probability of depression by only about 20 percent."

Instead, he says, to judge from the the numbers, "A Chicago-to-Honolulu move would be at least twice as effective as medication for your cold-months mood."


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