Most And Least Healthy States: Where Does Your State Rank?

Despite the relative wealth of the United States compared to other nations, the U.S. is far from being the healthiest country in the world. The country struggles with obesity and heart disease, and life expectancy is worse than in countries such as Slovenia and Chile.

Have you ever wondered about the overall health of your state? Believe it or not, it does affect your individual health, depending on where you live. For instance, in places with major health disparities (meaning that the rich have far more available access to health care than the poor) it can raise taxes, drive out physician specialists, and generally cause the state to become more unhealthy due to the lack of equity.

Southern states have traditionally had the poorest health in the country; this leads back to Civil-War era days, when the war-torn south was impoverished and without many resources. Traditional southern cooking plays a part as well, and people in the southeast have traditionally smoked more, drank more, and been more obese than their Midwestern neighbors.

The Pacific Northwest, on the other hand, usually has ranked fairly high as far as healthy states. In general, these states have a low obesity and smoking rate, higher exercise rates, but also higher use of drugs, with this area of the United States being the first area that crystallized methamphetamine flourished.

The Northeast’s major problems areas regarding health are high crime rates and binge-drinking, as well as high rates of preventable infections and sexually transmitted diseases.

The healthiest state for 2014, all things considered? Hawaii, and researchers think this is mainly due to the fact that most individuals have access to health care. Things that make it the healthiest state include that obesity was extremely low in the state, as were the rates of many of the serious diseases that tend to accompany obesity, such as diabetes. Just 2.8 percent of adults had heart disease, the second-smallest proportion in the country. Hawaiians also had among the lowest rates of death in the country from cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The state had a high concentration of dentists and physicians per capita. Also, just 7.8 percent of the population did not have health insurance, compared to 15.6 percent of the population nationally.

The least healthy state? Mississippi, for the third year in a row. Reasons for the unhealthy ranking? Mississippi ranks last on six measures: physical inactivity, rate of infectious disease, low birth weight, infant mortality, cardiovascular deaths, and premature deaths.

It’s not all bad, though. Strengths: Low prevalence of binge drinking, High immunization coverage among children, Small disparity in health status by education level (which is interesting considering the relative poverty of the state.)

Want to check out the health of your state? You can do so at this site. Keep in mind, however, that your individual practices are far more important than where you live. These statistics may give credence to the fact that people tend to do what their family members or friends are doing, though, so analyze the health habits of the company you keep, and decide what’s working and what’s not.