Spokane, Washington was just named one of the “saddest cities” in the entire country in a 2023 study by Sharecare, a digital health company. The study ranked cities based on a variety of factors, including self-reported depression, physical health, social relationships, financial health, and access to healthcare.
Spokane ranked 15th overall in the study, making it the most depressed city in Washington. The study found that 23.8% of adults in Spokane have received a clinical depression diagnosis, 14.9% have encountered frequent mental distress, 17.1% contend with poor physical health, and 17.8% grapple with poor mental health.
Here are a number of factors that may contribute to Spokane’s high rate of depression, including:
- High cost of living: Spokane has a relatively high cost of living compared to other cities in Washington state. This can make it difficult for people to afford basic necessities, such as housing and food. Financial stress can be a major contributor to depression.
- Lack of affordable housing: Spokane is facing a shortage of affordable housing. This means that many people are paying more than they can afford for housing, or they are living in overcrowded or substandard housing conditions. Lack of affordable housing can lead to stress, financial hardship, and social isolation, all of which can contribute to depression.
- High rate of poverty: Spokane has a higher poverty rate than the state of Washington as a whole. Poverty is a major risk factor for depression. People living in poverty are more likely to experience stressful life events, such as job loss, homelessness, and food insecurity. They are also less likely to have access to quality healthcare, including mental health care.
- Lack of access to mental health services: Spokane has a shortage of mental health providers. This means that many people who need mental health care have difficulty accessing it. Lack of access to mental health care can lead to untreated depression, which can worsen over time.
- Social isolation: Social isolation is a major risk factor for depression. Spokane is a relatively spread-out city, and many people live in rural areas. This can make it difficult to connect with other people and build social support networks. Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and worthlessness, which can contribute to depression.
- High rate of homelessness: Spokane has a high rate of homelessness. Homelessness is a major stressor that can lead to depression. People who are homeless are at increased risk of other mental health problems, such as substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Weather: Spokane has a long winter with cold weather and short days. Some people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during the winter months. SAD is thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight during the winter.
- Air quality: Spokane has poor air quality, especially during the winter months. Air pollution can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health. Studies have shown that exposure to air pollution is associated with an increased risk of depression.
- Genetics: Depression can run in families, suggesting that there is a genetic component to the disorder.
Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as chronic pain, cancer, and thyroid problems, can increase the risk of depression.
- Substance abuse: Substance abuse can lead to depression and make it worse.
- Traumatic life events: Traumatic life events, such as childhood abuse or neglect, the death of a loved one, or a serious illness, can increase the risk of depression.
However, despite these sobering statistics, it’s essential to remember that Spokane is far from a one-dimensional city defined solely by its struggles. It has much to offer its residents, making it a vibrant and culturally rich place to live.
Spokane is home to a diverse population, boasting a thriving arts and culture scene, and offering a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities. These positives demonstrate that the city is not defined solely by its struggles but as a dynamic and resilient community working towards positive change.
While Spokane may currently bear the title of one of the “saddest cities” in the nation, it’s crucial to recognize the ongoing efforts to address these challenges and improve the quality of life for all its residents. Mental health support and access to affordable housing are areas that the city is actively working to enhance.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or mental distress, seeking help is of paramount importance. Resources, including therapy, medication, and support groups, are available to provide the necessary assistance. Additionally, don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and family for support during difficult times.
While Spokane, Washington, has been designated as one of the “saddest cities” in the United States, the city is not defined solely by its challenges. It is a place with a rich and diverse community, a thriving cultural scene, and abundant outdoor opportunities. Despite the distressing statistics, Spokane is actively working to improve the mental health and well-being of its residents, addressing issues such as affordable housing and access to healthcare.