Study Suggests Americans Are Heavier, More Stressed

F.J. Thomas

A new America’s Health Rankings report from UnitedHealth ranks states by their health ratings. While the report shows improvements have been made in certain criteria, other metrics have become worse. More than 30 benchmarks from outcomes, clinical care, policy, behaviors, community and environment were used to determine a state’s classification and health rating. Overall, Vermont scored as the healthiest state in the nation, while Mississippi was ranked the most unhealthy.

The top 10 healthiest states based on overall scores were:

  1. Vermont
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Hawaii
  4. Connecticut
  5. Utah
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Minnesota
  8. New Jersey
  9. Washington
  10. Colorado

The 10 states with the lowest health rankings were:

  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama
  • Oklahoma
  • West Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • South Carolina
  • Indiana

Areas of marked improvement included smoking, which decreased from 21.2 percent to 16.1 percent since 2012, and air pollution which was reduced by 36 percent during the same time period. Although violent crime levels peaked in 1993, the report shows that violent crimes decreased by 50 percent from a rate of 758 per 100,000 to 381 offenses per 100,000.

Obesity and diabetes, mental health, and drug deaths were among the metrics that have gotten worse over the last several years. Since 2012, obesity has increased from 27 percent of adults to 30.9 percent. Likewise, diabetes increased from 9.5 percent of adults to 10.9 percent.

The statistics also suggest that people are more stressed out as well. In the past four years, reports of frequent mental distress rose from 11.0 percent to 12.4 percent. A corresponding increase in mental health providers has occurred during that time. In the last two years, the study showed there has been an increase in mental health providers from 218.0 per 100,000 people to 247.4.
In terms of the opioid epidemic, the report showed evidence that the problem of drug addiction has steadily increased over the last decade. Over the last three years, drug deaths have risen from 14.0 to 19.2 deaths per 100,000 people, at a growth rate of a 37 percent. However, when viewed since 2007, drug deaths have risen 104 percent.

When reviewing occupational fatalities’ scores, Washington had the best score with the least injuries at 2.7, and Wyoming ranked worst with a score of 10.9. The national ranking for occupational fatalities was 4.4.
For those who reported doing no physical activity other than their regular job, Colorado ranked healthiest at 16.4 percent and Kentucky ranked the least healthy at 32.4 percent. The national percentage for physical activity was 23.8 percent.

Preventable hospitalizations for acute and chronic illness were tracked as indicators of health management. Hawaii had the healthiest score for preventable hospitalizations at 23.3. Kentucky had the least healthy score at 76.6 while the national score was 49.4.

To see the full study and see how each state ranked, the full report is available at America’s Health Ranking.

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