New Paradigm Recovery in Vienna, Virginia is proud of our neighbors. According to a 2022 study in US News & World Report[i], some of the healthiest places in America are right here in Northern Virginia. Most notably, Falls Church, VA, was named the second healthiest place in America. This suburban town in the has consistently ranked among the healthiest places in America and is not alone in the DC-Metro region. Loudon County and Arlington County were #12 and #13, respectively, and Fairfax County and Howard County ranked #17 and #18 respectively.
Because New Paradigm Recovery believes in a holistic approach to addiction treatment, we were interested in learning more about the data behind these rankings.
With a myriad of factors going into the determination of a community’s health, we were most interested in the metrics for mental health, which was one part of the overall “Population Health” category in the ranking, which was weighted to account for 14.2% of the score.[ii] The publication measured mental health through only a few studies. The only mental health statistics relating to addiction used in the study were the “Deaths of Despair,” a category that includes suicide, overdose, and alcohol-related disease. We thought this was interesting because the data about these deaths seems to be the only substance-abuse related metric that factored into this list, but as we all know, not all suicides are addiction-relating and not all addiction results in death. For mental health overall, they also looked at Medicare beneficiaries with depression (no other diagnoses were mentioned at all), as well as a vague description of “Adults with Frequent Mental Distress” which is based on self-reported survey data. Conversely, there was an abundance of data relating to physical health: data related to Population Health included statistics about access to health insurance, life-expectancy, teen birth-rate, cancer incidence, heart disease prevalence, smoking, and physical activity levels.
Substance abuse within a community, of course, is not an isolated phenomenon.
Many socio-economic factors contribute to a community’s rates of addiction and overdose. While this study was interesting, we found ourselves hoping for more information about the mental health of communities in America. At New Paradigm Recovery, we look forward to a day when mental health statistics are as available as other health statistics and weighted equally.