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Amber Todd


Mental health impacts every facet of day-to-day life, and therefore it is important to determine what factors influence mental wellbeing in order to best target those areas to improve individuals’ mood and health. This paper analyzes how mental distress rates in Alaskan counties are affected by environmental and societal issues such as latitude, insufficient sleep, access to healthy food, presence of severe housing issues and rates of physical inactivity. By specifically studying mental distress in Alaskan residents, the extremes of day length and population size bring a new dimension to previous research done on mental distress. The variables were derived from County Health Ranking’s 2020 data for Alaskan counties. The rates of frequent mental distress between Alaska (12.01%) and Florida counties (13.64%) in 2020 were significantly different (t = -3.671, p < .001) indicating latitude is related to mental distress. A Pearson correlation (r = .641, p > .001) indicates that as the percentage of those with insufficient sleep increase, the percentage of those with frequent mental distress also increases. Percent of population with severe housing problems (B = .118, t = 5.465, p < .001) and percent with limited access to healthy food (B = .052, t = 2.350, p = .027) significantly contributed to the best fitting step wise linear regression model (F2,26 = 51.957, p < .001) model to account for the variance in the percent of frequent mental distress in Alaska counties in 2020, encompassing 80.0% of the variance in the rate of frequent mental distress.

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