America’s Most (and Least) Healthy States

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The Healthiest States in America

10. Nebraska
> Pct. obese: 29.6% (23rd highest)
> Cardiovascular deaths per 100,000: 224.9 (17th lowest)
> Physicians per 100,000: 118.5 (25th highest)
> Pct. visiting dentist in 2012: 63.4 (16th highest)

Based on a wide range of factors, Nebraska has the 10th healthiest population in the nation. As in most of the healthiest states, a strong job market is a major factor. Not only does job security alleviate financial stress and provide income needed to access health services, but also a large percentage of Americans receive health insurance from their employer. Less than 4% of Nebraska’s workforce was unemployed last year, nearly the lowest rate nationwide. Also, 11.3% of state residents did not have health insurance in 2013, one of the lower rates. By comparison, nearly 15% of Americans were not insured that year. Nebraskans also have relatively healthy behaviors. For example, there were just three drug-related deaths per 100,000 Nebraska residents last year, nearly half the national rate and less than all but two other states.

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9. North Dakota
> Pct. obese: 31.0% (13th highest)
> Cardiovascular deaths per 100,000: 226.8 (18th lowest)
> Physicians per 100,000: 123.6 (21st highest)
> Pct. visiting dentist in 2012: 56.1 (25th lowest)

North Dakota residents are still reaping the benefits from the state’s dramatic economic growth. North Dakota’s GDP has grown faster than that of any other state in the last several years, and its unemployment rate of 2.9% was the lowest in the nation last year. While low unemployment generally contributes to better health, it can also have negative impact on well-being. For example, nearly 24% of residents reported binge drinking — defined as consuming more than four drinks (for women) or five drinks (for men) in a single session — in the previous 30 days, by far the highest rate in the country. North Dakotans were also among the most likely Americans to report insufficient sleep, which could be due in part to long work days. Yet, the state’s strong economy seems to have led to overall positive health outcomes. Public health services were among the best funded in the country, contributing in part to a nearly 77% immunization rate for adolescents — the second highest rate in the United States.

8. Colorado
> Pct. obese: 21.3% (the lowest)
> Cardiovascular deaths per 100,000: 197.1 (2nd lowest)
> Physicians per 100,000: 120.7 (24th highest)
> Pct. visiting dentist in 2012: 69.4 (11th highest)

Like in the majority of the healthiest states, Colorado residents are among the wealthiest in the nation. A typical household in the state made $63,371 in 2013, more than in all but a handful of states. In addition to higher incomes, more than 82% of Colorado residents exercised on a regular basis, the highest percentage in the country. And this physical activity also likely contributed to the state’s low obesity rate. Just 21.3% of residents were obese as of last year, the lowest rate nationwide, and substantially less than the nearly 30% of all Americans considered obese. The low obesity rate, in turn, likely helped lower the prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the state. There were less than 200 cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 people last year, and 6.5% of the adult population had been diagnosed with diabetes, the second-lowest and lowest rates, respectively.