Sometimes, it’s all in the questions you ask. Or the questions y’all ask. Or the ones you guys ask!

Those of us in psychology and assessment are very interested in the art of asking the right questions, and a great example from the field of linguistics has been circulating around the Internet in recent months. A dialect survey, based on work by Harvard professor Burt Vaux, has been developed into an interactive quiz by graphic artists at the New York Times, which published it in December 2013. Responses to the quiz generate maps that show the probability that the user hails from a specific region, state, or even city in the U.S.

The survey includes questions about the names of specific items (“What do you call a sweetened carbonated beverage?”) as well as pronunciations (“How do you pronounce ‘Aunt’?”). Each answer is association with a region, and there is a “heat map” for each question, as well as a “personal dialog map” for each individual user based on the sum of his or her responses to 25 questions.

“The data are fascinating,” says Katherine Wells, in her recent story about Vaux’s work in The Atlantic. “They reveal patterns of migration, unexpected linguistic kinships between regions, and the awesome variety of words we say and how we say them.”

An informal poll of users here at PAR headquarters suggests that the quiz can yield some amazingly accurate results—and we come from all over the U.S. Try the quiz yourself and see where it puts you on the map!
According to a just-released statistical brief from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, mental disorders were the most costly medical expenditure for those under 18 years of age during 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available. More than 5.6 million children were treated for mental disorders at a mean expenditure of $2,465 each, for a total expense of $13.8 billion. In 2011, $117.6 billion was spent overall on the medical care and treatment of children.

The top five medical conditions that ranked highest in terms of spending included mental disorders, asthma ($11.9 billion), trauma-related disorders ($5.8 billion), acute bronchitis and upper respiratory infections ($3.3 billion), and otitis media ($3.2 billion). Although mental disorders affected the fewest number of children of the other top five medical conditions, they had the highest average expense per child.

In 2008, mental disorders ranked as the fifth most commonly treated condition; according to survey data, the expense per child has remained steady.

Nearly half the expenditures for mental disorders in children were paid by Medicaid.
According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one in five adults in the United States suffered from a mental illness in 2011. This federal government report defined mental illness as a person having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, and included more than 65,000 Americans aged 12 and above.

The rate of mental illness was found to be twice as likely in the 18-to-25-year-old age group, close to 30 percent, than it is in those age 50 and above (about 14 percent). Furthermore, women were more likely to have suffered a mental illness than men (about 23 percent versus 16 percent).

Of the 45.6 million people with a mental illness, about 11.5 million reported a serious mental illness, about 5 percent of the adult population. About 38 percent of adults with a mental illness in 2011 received treatment during the year – and about 60 percent of those with a serious mental illness sought help during that time.

Youth also were studied, and it was found that 2 million adolescents between age 12 and 17 had a major depressive episode in 2011, about 8 percent of the population. Young people who had a major depressive epsidoe were more than twice as likely to use illicit drugs than those who did not (36 percent versus 17 percent).

Rates of mental illness remained stable from the prior year.