Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Jessica Ulrich-Schad (Committee Co-Chair), Courtney Flint (Committee Co-Chair)


Jessica Ulrich-Schad


Courtney Flint


Gabriele Ciciurkaite


Guadalupe Marquez-Velarde


Don Albrecht


This dissertation examines wellbeing, mental health, and natural resource (NR) dependency in rural Utah. The following questions are asked: How do wellbeing and mental health vary throughout the state of Utah, including by rural-urban location? What concerns do applied practitioners have regarding mental health in rural parts of the state? How do chronic stress and social dislocation contribute to mental health outcomes in rural NR dependent communities in the state? Four studies were conducted to pursue these research questions.

The first two studies use data from the Utah Wellbeing Survey to explore wellbeing and mental health in Utah communities over time and by rural-urban location. Results show differences between years (2020-2022) and rural and urban places, such as that mental health was rated higher in 2022 than other years and those in rural communities had poorer mental health than those in growing and urban places. The third study uses interviews with ten Utah State University Extension faculty to explore mental health concerns in Utah from the perspective of applied practitioners. Participants discuss mental health stigma, mental healthcare access, and mental health concerns in NR dependent places in rural Utah, as well as offer insights into how mental health issues may be addressed throughout the state. The fourth study utilizes 49 interviews with residents in two rural extractive and non-extractive NR dependent communities in Utah to explore mechanisms that contribute to poor mental health in these places. Findings show that chronic stress and social dislocation lead to poor mental health in the study communities.

The four studies tell a detailed story about wellbeing and mental health in communities across Utah, how applied practitioners perceive and respond to mental health needs, and mechanisms that contribute to poor mental health in rural NR dependent places in the state. Taken together, the four studies contribute a more holistic understanding of wellbeing and mental health in rural and NR dependent places in Utah.