Do you think you live in a healthy community? Midwestern and Western residents who answer in the affirmative have a better chance of being correct than those who live in the East or South. Of the 25 healthiest cities reported here, more than half — 13 — are in the Midwest, with six of the communities in or adjacent to Minnesota. Nine more are in the West, with Utah and California each boasting three metropolitan areas ranking high on this list. Only three cities in the East broke into the top 25, and none from the South.
The average life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But life expectancy varies from state to state and even from city to city. Apart from environmental and socioeconomic factors that may be outside of our control, there are many factors that can contribute to healthier living: don’t smoke; approach life with moderation when it comes to eating and drinking; exercise and keep moving.
But what magical combination adds up to a healthy community? When measuring health across a community, it is important to consider all the factors that can contribute to overall health: actual health outcomes, overall health factors such as behaviors and clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment measures.
Health outcomes can be measured by premature mortality (the number of deaths among residents under age 75 per 100,000 population), among other measures. Healthy behaviors can be measured by the percentage of the population that remains inactive during leisure time, among other measures. Access to health care includes concentration of medical professionals and the share of people who lack health insurance. And environmental measures can include commute times, clean air and more. Finally, socioeconomic measures can include education levels and income.
Many predictors of life-long health and longevity are rooted in our early years. Low birthweight, a mother’s age at birth, childhood poverty, and growing up in a single-parent household can all take a lasting toll.
Health outcomes are the result of several factors — including behavior, quality of care, socioeconomic factors, genetics. Americans’ overall health varies considerably by geography.