More on the demographics of mental health

In the previous post, we looked at the likelihood to have received treatment for a mental health problem by political orientation based on GSS data. It turns out that self-described political liberals are twice as likely to have been treated for mental health issues as conservatives are, with moderates falling in between*. This spurred several intriguing comments that I'll turn to the GSS again to address.

Firstly, the inevitable racial issue. An anonymous commenter writes:
This generalization is too broad, since I'm sure Caucasian Liberals will have superb mental health compared to Caucasian Conservatives. Since there's studies that shows that those in higher Academia has the least stress and hence the best health.
It turns out he was being tongue-in-cheek, and whites are more prone to experience mental health issues than non-whites are. The percentages who have been treated for mental health problems, by race (n = 1,412):


As blacks are only slightly more likely to identify as liberal than they are as conservative, despite consistently voting Democratic by overwhelming margins, it's conceivable that race obfuscates the association between liberalism and mental health issues. In actuality, however, the relatively good mental health of non-whites attenuates political differences that are even more stark when only whites are considered (n = 1,033):

Whites only

While only 1 in 10 white conservatives have been treated for mental health problems, nearly one-quarter of white liberals have. I am not qualified to explain why this is the case, but perhaps God has something to say about it. In clearing up the confusion about his first comment, the anonymous commenter later writes:
Conservatives should be mentally healthier, because they tend to be more religious, hence making it easier for regulation of mental health.

Liberals worry so much that they actually care about people they don't even know.
Whether or not liberals have more mental issues to deal with because they want to put the weight of the world on their own shoulders, God's most ardent followers tend to come from the conservative ranks, and one of the rewards they receive in return is better mental health. To avoid racial confounding, only whites are included (n = 1,064):

Worship frequency
Weekly or more
More than once a month
At least once a year
Less than once a year

Each classification is exclusive, so the second should actually read "More than once a month but less than weekly or more", etc.

What about Jews? TAE is, loosely defined, part of the alternative right blogosphere, so the question has to be asked! Jews, after all, are as a group more leftist than white Democrats are. Again, God's hand is shown! Not just any god, but our God, an awesome God who reigns from heaven above (n = 1,405):


Unfortunately, the GSS is understandably unable to track ethnic Jewishness among survey participants. Instead, we're looking at Judaism by way of self-described religious affiliation. As Jews are considerably more likely than other Americans to be irreligious, there is presumably a sizable contingent of ethnic Jews in the "none" category.

Another trait that requires attention is intelligence. Writes Ed Tom Kowalsky:
[There is a] need to control for IQ inasmuch as I suspect mental illness tracks with intelligence.
Disappointingly, the best GSS proxy for IQ, Wordsum score, is not cross-referenced with the mental health question so controlling for it is a difficult thing to do. Educational attainment is of course correlated with intelligence, but the relationship is far from perfect. Instead of moving out several degrees by using education to estimate wordsum performance to estimate IQ scores, let's just consider differences in rates of mental health issues by educational attainment, again among whites alone to avoid problems with racial confounding (n = 1,067):

Educational attainment
Less than high school
High school graduate
Some college
Bachelor's degree
Post-secondary education

As was the case with worship attendance, each classification is exclusive, so the second should actually read "High school graduate but no college", etc.

While conservatives are, on average, slightly more intelligent than liberals are, white liberals have an edge over white conservatives, so the association between greater intelligence and more mental health problems might go a little way in explaining why liberals have poorer mental health than conservatives do (though for what my uninformed opinion is worth, I suspect differences in personality traits other than intelligence are far more determinative).

Silly girl contemplates the relationship between criminality, political orientation, and mental health:
I wonder whether folks who have ever been arrested or incarcerated are more likely to be liberal.

I would say that being anti social enough to end up in prison is a pretty good indicator of mental issues.
As Jokah points out, small sample size is a huge (heh) issue here, as the mental health question was only posed in one year of the survey, and the number of people who spend time in prison is in the middle single-digits range. This GSS well is dry.

For what it's worth, in Freedonomics (p182-184), John Lott--who it should be noted is clearly unsympathetic to the Democratic party--reviews multiple studies showing that to the extent that they express political preferences, felons tend to vote even more heavily Democratic than their demographic statistics (which are very Democratic) would predict.

Since we're running the conventional demographic gamut, let's look at marriage and children. To give respondents a chance to have tied the knot if their plans include as much, those under the age of 30 are excluded, while again only whites are considered (n = 926):

Marital status

And finally, kids. We're looking at the number white adults aged 30 and older have had (n = 927):


So, mental health issues are most commonly experienced among well-educated, unmarried, irreligious white liberals who don't procreate (or do the SWPL thing and have one kid after both parents are firmly established in their professional careers). Mental health problems are progressive, baby!

GSS variables used: MHTRTSLF, RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), MARITAL(1)(2-5), EDUC(0-11)(12)(13-15)(16-17)(18-20), CHILDS(0)(1)(2-8), POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7), ATTEND(0-1)(2-4)(5-6)(7-8), RELIGION

* As previously noted, the GSS item being utilized here asked respondents if they had ever received treatment for a mental health problem. That's not exactly the same as asking whether or not they had ever suffered from mental health issues, but it's pretty close.