What is the state of America’s health? Depends on where you live.
The United Health Foundation, along with the American Public Health Association, has put together its 2015 ranking of the healthiest—and least healthy—states in the union. Researchers have been releasing the America’s Health Rankings Annual Report for 26 years running. And let’s just say that running is something that we, as a nation, ought to be doing a lot more of.
The report factors in a range of statistics on behaviors and health outcomes, such as smoking, binge drinking, drug deaths, obesity, physical inactivity, infant mortality, and cancer and cardiovascular deaths. It also ties in immunization rates, crime, air pollution, the prevalence of people without health insurance, mental health and other measures to come up with a weighted nationwide ranking.
Here are the 10 best states for your health:
The Aloha State consistently has been in the top six since 1990, when the report first came out, largely for its low obesity rates and high mental health ratings. The rankings score psychological wellness by how many days out of the last 30 people reported their mental health was not good. In Hawaii, the average was 2.7 days (tied with South Dakota).
Vermont has the lowest violent crime rate in the country. And only 6.1 percent of population is uninsured (third lowest among all the states).
Topping the list of most-insured states? Massachusetts, with 96.5 percent of its residents covered. The state has the third lowest obesity rate, after Colorado (#1) and Hawaii.
All told, Minnesota leads the country in positive “health outcomes” with the fewest “poor physical health days” (number of days out of the last 30 that people report feeling physically unwell) and lowest rate of cardiovascular deaths.
#5 New Hampshire
New Hampshire ranks near the top of the list for immunizations among children and adolescents. Half of female teens in the state get the HPV vaccine. (Go, New Hampshire!)
Connecticut ranks in the top half of the country on smoking, drug deaths, obesity and physical activity—but it dips to #26 for its excessive drinking.
Less smoking and diabetes, and fewer cancer deaths than anywhere else in the country.
In case there was any question, living in the Rockies rocks. Colorado stomped the rest of the U.S. with the lowest rates of physical inactivity and obesity. That can’t be a coincidence.
Washington eked into the top 10 after being 13th in 2014. The report noted the state’s low incidence of infectious disease and cardiovascular deaths.
Benefits of being a Nebraskan include: low drug deaths, high childhood immunizations and way more good mental and physical health days than bad ones.
And the prize for least healthy state goes to: Louisiana
Among the state’s dubious accomplishments, it’s 46th in smoking rates (West Virginia is #50), 47th in obesity (Arkansas takes the bottom spot there), and dead last in how many of its children live in poverty. But it’s better than average in air pollution, so that’s something.
Common themes among the bottom 10 states are high rates of obesity, too much smoking and not enough physical activity.
The 10 least healthy states are:
#47 West Virginia
#42 South Carolina
In fact, the whole country is suffering from rising obesity rates.
Obesity is up nationwide, from 27.6 percent two years ago to 29.6 percent now. For the record, in 1990, fewer than 12 percent of adults were clinically obesity.
And, no surprise, there are also more and more cases of diabetes.
The rate of diabetes incidence in adults is up to 10 percent now. It was 4.4 percent 20 years ago.
But it’s not all bad news. Consider North Carolina, which gets the nod for Most Improved State.
North Carolina shows the biggest improvement in rank over the past year, moving up six places, to #31. The state’s rise is thanks largely to an increase in immunizations among children and more adolescent girls getting the HPV shot. Also, there was a decline in physical inactivity and in the incidence of Salmonella infections.
And across the country, we are making some notable positive strides toward better health:
More kids are getting vaccinated.
Today, 71.6 percent of babies aged 19 to 35 months are getting their recommended immunizations. That’s up from under 60 percent in 1996. And more teen girls are getting the HPV vax.
We are getting (slightly) more active.
Last year, 25.3 percent of adults went 30 days without doing any physical activity outside of their regular job. That number has dropped now to 22.6 percent.
We are smoking (slightly) less.
Baby steps. Smoking is down from 19 percent of American adults last year to 18.1 percent this year. That’s progress, but it still means that one in six adults smokes.
And there has been a 23 percent decrease in cardiovascular deaths over the past 10 years.
All great news, America. Let’s keep it up, shall we?
Didn’t see your state? You can read the full report here.