This Town Has Been Named The Most Depressed City In Hawaii

Hawaii is often celebrated as a tropical paradise, boasting stunning beaches, lush forests, and a vibrant cultural tapestry. However, beneath this picturesque façade lies a less sunny reality. According to a recent study by WalletHub, a personal finance website, Hawaii ranks as the 11th most depressed state in the nation, with Hilo, the largest city on the Big Island, emerging as the most depressed city in Hawaii. What factors contribute to Hilo’s prevailing sense of unhappiness, and what steps can be taken to uplift its mental well-being?

The Causes of Depression in Hilo

Depression, a multifaceted condition, can affect individuals across demographics, influenced by factors such as genetics, environment, stress, trauma, and physical health. In Hilo, several factors contribute to the prevalence of depression:

Isolation and Loneliness: Situated on the eastern side of the Big Island, Hilo represents the most rural and secluded region of Hawaii. Despite its population of approximately 45,000, the city’s spread-out nature poses challenges in fostering connections among residents. Limited social and recreational opportunities exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness, particularly during the pandemic.

Poverty and Unemployment: Hilo grapples with significant economic disparities, with a median household income of around $58,000, notably lower than the state average. High unemployment rates, hovering around 9%, intensify financial stress and anxiety among residents, impacting self-esteem and sense of purpose.

Natural Disasters and Climate Change: Vulnerable to various natural calamities like hurricanes, floods, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, Hilo’s resilience is regularly tested. Events such as Hurricane Lane in 2018 and the Kilauea eruption brought widespread destruction and displacement. Climate change further amplifies these risks, contributing to emotional trauma and grief.

The Effects of Depression in Hilo

Depression’s repercussions extend beyond individual well-being, permeating public health and societal dynamics:

Suicide and Substance Abuse: Depression heightens the risk of suicide, a concerning trend reflected in Hawaii’s elevated suicide rate, particularly among young adults. Hilo, experiencing a higher-than-average suicide rate, also contends with increased substance abuse, exacerbating mental and physical health challenges.

Chronic Diseases and Reduced Life Expectancy: Depression compromises immune, metabolic, and cardiovascular functions, predisposing individuals to chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Lifestyle factors further compound health risks, potentially reducing life expectancy by up to a decade.

Lower Productivity and Economic Strain: Cognitive impairment stemming from depression impairs work and academic performance, contributing to absenteeism and diminished productivity. Economic ramifications extend to healthcare costs, social services, and overall productivity, with depression imposing a significant financial burden on society.

The Solutions for Depression in Hilo

Addressing depression necessitates a multi-faceted approach, incorporating professional intervention, self-care practices, and societal awareness:

Seeking Professional Help: Accessing mental health services, including medication and therapy, remains paramount. Hilo offers various resources like the Hilo Medical Center and the Hilo Community Mental Health Center to support diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Practicing Self-Care: Adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and relaxation techniques, can alleviate symptoms of depression. Engaging in hobbies, seeking social support, and reframing negative thought patterns are essential self-care strategies.

Raising Awareness and Reducing Stigma: Educating communities about depression’s causes, effects, and treatment options fosters understanding and empathy. Active participation in awareness campaigns and advocacy efforts contributes to destigmatizing mental health challenges.


Hilo’s designation as Hawaii’s most depressed city underscores the urgent need to address mental health concerns within the community. By acknowledging and mitigating factors contributing to depression, Hilo can cultivate a more resilient and supportive environment, promoting the well-being of its residents and enhancing overall quality of life.

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