The United States is often considered one of the least healthy affluent nations, due in part to its low life expectancy, expensive health care, and an ever-increasing adult obesity rate. Life expectancy at birth nationwide is 78.6 years, one of the lowest among OECD nations. Still, health varies significantly nationwide, and in many U.S. cities, Americans are less obese and generally live longer, healthier lives.
There are many factors that contribute to one’s ability to live a long, healthy life, ranging from certain behaviors to financial stability. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 35 health factors and outcomes from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, to identify the 25 healthiest metropolitan areas in the country.
One of the best ways to measure the health of a population is the premature death rate — the rate at which residents die before the age of 75. In our index, we weighted premature death more heavily than any other measure.
There appears to be a strong correlation between income and health. Among the 25 healthiest U.S. cities, all but six exceed the national median household income of $57,617. Places with a higher median household income typically report better health outcomes, likely because residents are better able to afford health care as well as nutritious foods, gym memberships, and other things that help facilitate a healthy lifestyle.
Having health insurance is another crucial component in maintaining good health as it ensures individuals are receiving proper medical and preventive care. Nationwide, 11.0% of people under the age of 65 are not covered by health insurance. Among the 25 healthiest cities, only one has a higher than average share of residents under 65 without insurance coverage.
Both health insurance and income are important. However, healthy behaviors and habits can also impact health. Certain behavioral factors and indicators, such as smoking and obesity, can increase the risk of a number of chronic diseases and health complications. Nationwide, 17% of adults identify as smokers, and 28% of adults are obese. The vast majority of the healthiest cities are home to a smaller share of adult who are obese or smoke than the country as a whole.
24/7 Wall St. created an index modeled after an analysis conducted by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program. To identify the 25 healthiest cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed all U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. The index rankings are based on overall health outcomes, a weighted composite of length of life, quality of life, and overall health factors. The health factors component is itself a weighted composite of healthy behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment measures. Median household income figures and poverty rates came from the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. Data on the prevalence of food insecurity in each metropolitan area came from the United States Department of Agriculture 2015 Food Access Research Atlas.