Special Report

The Healthiest City in Each State

Grant Suneson

Source: Thinkstock

1. Alabama: Daphne-Fairhope-Foley
> Premature death rate: 351.3 per 100,000
> Adult obesity rate: 29.3%
> Rate of uninsured people under 65: 11.7%
> Median household income: $56,732

All 12 metropolitan statistical areas in Alabama are less healthy than the average U.S. metropolitan statistical area, but the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley area is the healthiest among all of them. Its premature death rate of 351 per 100,000 residents makes it the only place in Alabama with a premature death rate below the U.S. average of 363. Daphne area adults are also the least likely to be obese in Alabama. Only one other metro area in Alabama has an obesity rate below 32.0%. Obesity has a strong link to many negative health outcomes, such as heart attacks, strokes, and certain types of cancer.

Daphne area residents are the least likely to live in poverty, likely contributing to healthier outcomes. Some 11.4% of area residents live below the poverty line, which is less than the 14.0% national rate. Poverty is closely tied to negative health outcomes, as people living below the poverty line often struggle to afford prescriptions and other treatments to maintain their health. Those in lower income neighborhoods can also struggle to find nutritious food.

Source: andyKRAKOVSKI / Getty Images

2. Alaska: Fairbanks
> Premature death rate: 330.3 per 100,000
> Adult obesity rate: 28.9%
> Rate of uninsured people under 65: 11.6%
> Median household income: $77,328

Alaska has just two metro areas — Fairbanks and Anchorage — and both are among the healthier places in the country. Fairbanks is the healthier of the two areas. For every 100,000 residents of Fairbanks, 330 died prematurely — well below the U.S. rate of 363 per 100,000. Some 13.2% of Fairbanks adults reported being in either fair or poor health, the lowest rate in the state and well below the 16.0% U.S. rate. The metro area’s adult residents also reported just 3.0 mentally unhealthy days in the last month — nearly the lowest in the entire country.

Healthy habits are often established in childhood and that is made all the easier when children live in households that are not impoverished. In Fairbanks, just 9.9% of children live in poverty — the lowest rate of any U.S. metro area. The median household income in the Fairbanks area is $77,328, nearly $20,000 higher than the U.S. median of $57,617.

Source: Melikamp / Wikimedia Commons

3. Arizona: Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale
> Premature death rate: 303.5 per 100,000
> Adult obesity rate: 26.9%
> Rate of uninsured people under 65: 13.4%
> Median household income: $58,075

Physical activity is crucial to maintaining long-term health. People in the Phoenix area have more access to places where they can exercise than residents of any other part of Arizona. Some 90.8% of Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale residents have somewhere to exercise. That is the highest rate of anywhere in the state and one of the higher rates in the U.S. More than 80% of area adults reported getting at least some physical activity in their leisure time, one of the higher rates in the country.

Phoenix area adults also tend to avoid smoking more than anywhere else in the state. Just 13.9% of adults smoke, compared to 17.0% of adults nationwide. These factors and more may contribute to the fact that the Phoenix area has the lowest premature age-adjusted mortality rate in Arizona. Some 304 per 100,000 Phoenix residents die prematurely, well below the Arizona metro area average and the U.S. average of 363.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. Arkansas: Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
> Premature death rate: 356.3 per 100,000
> Adult obesity rate: 30.4%
> Rate of uninsured people under 65: 12.8%
> Median household income: $51,848

Arkansas metropolitan areas tend to lag behind much of the rest of the country in many key health indicators. The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers area has an adult obesity rate of 30.4%, the lowest of anywhere in Arkansas, but still higher than the national adult obesity rate of 28.0%. Some 73.4% of adults in the area reported getting some physical activity in their leisure time. This is the best rate statewide, but it is still lower than the 77.0% exercise rate in the U.S. as a whole.

The Fayetteville area is the only place in Arkansas with a premature mortality rate below the national rate of 363 per 100,000 — even if it is just slightly lower at 356 per 100,000. Fayetteville also has a poverty rate of 13.2%, making it the only place in the state with a poverty rate below the national rate of 14.0%. This reduced financial stress likely allows Fayetteville area residents to purchase healthier food and afford better medical care.

Source: Thinkstock

5. California: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara
> Premature death rate: 196.3 per 100,000
> Adult obesity rate: 19.8%
> Rate of uninsured people under 65: 7.6%
> Median household income: $110,040

The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area is not only the healthiest in California, but the healthiest in the country as well. The area, which encapsulates much of the technology hub Silicon Valley, is the only place nationwide with fewer than 200 premature deaths per 100,000 residents. The San Jose area is one of just five nationwide metro areas in which adults reported fewer than three mentally and physically unhealthy days on average in the last month.

These positive health indicators and outcomes are likely made possible by the very high levels of wealth in the area. The median household income of $110,040 is the highest in the U.S. by far. The next closest median household income is $96,677. The San Jose metro area is also one of the best educated in the country. High levels of wealth and education indicate that a large portion of this population is equipped to make good health decisions.