Friday, November 30, 2007

"Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others"

Matt Drudge linked to this Gallup Poll which claims to show that Republicans have significantly better mental health than Democrats. Conservatives will probably have a lot of fun with this, but the poll is probably worthless because Gallup doesn't address the single biggest source of inaccuracy in any such poll: Self-reporting bias.

Unless you know that conservatives are just as likely to report mental health issues as moderates and liberals, or you understand and correct for any such bias, the data is garbage. Given the stigma still attached to mental illness among more traditional social and religious groups, members of those groups are almost certain to underreport symptoms of mental illness. For a simple but good discussion of the some of the ways surveys and studies can be biased see this web page.

To understand self-reporting bias, consider a survey asking people if they're gay. How many conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, would admit being gay to a pollster when most of them can't even admit it to themselves. Think Larry Craig and you'll understand why Gallup probably has this wrong.

1 comment:

mhelvin said...

Mental illness is a pervasive and often devastating health problem that, fortunately, is often treatable. Yet many Americans do not receive necessary mental health services because of financial constraints, stigma, and other factors. Mental health parity legislation, S. 486, would help reduce these barriers to care. The bill would not require employers to provide mental health coverage. But employers who do provide mental health coverage would be prohibited from providing more restricted coverage of mental health benefits than coverage of other medical and surgical benefits. Ensuring mental health parity would end the artificial distinction between mental and Dual Diagnosis in insurance coverage and would improve access to effective treatment.