Special Report

The Healthiest States in America

10. Colorado
> Premature death rate (per 100,000): 6,288 (8th lowest)
> Adult obesity rate: 22.9% (the lowest)
> Adult smoking rate: 14.5% (14th lowest)
> Median household income: $71,953 (11th highest)

Like many of the healthiest states, Colorado residents are among the wealthiest in the nation. A typical household income is almost $72,000 a year, more than in all but 10 states. In addition to higher incomes, more than 83% of Colorado residents exercise on a regular basis, the highest percentage in the country. This high rate of physical activity likely contributes to the state’s low obesity rate. Just 22.9% of adult residents are obese, the lowest rate nationwide. The low obesity rate, in turn, likely helps keep down the prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the state. There are an average of 207 cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 people in Colorado a year, the third lowest rate, and just 7.0% of the adult population has been diagnosed with diabetes, the smallest share nationwide.

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9. Washington
> Premature death rate (per 100,000): 6,094 (5th lowest)
> Adult obesity rate: 28.7% (13th lowest)
> Adult smoking rate: 12.0% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $74,073 (9th highest)

People in Washington State tend to have healthy habits. Just 17.6% of adults say they do not exercise and only 12.0% report smoking on a regular basis, both of which are the third smallest such shares in the country.

Washington also has a relatively low preventable hospitalization rate, an indication of effective utilization of outpatient services and the overall quality of health care in the state. There are only 32.7 preventable hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, the fifth lowest rate in the country. Healthy lifestyle choices and access to quality health care may contribute to the state’s low rate of heart disease deaths. There are just 222.4 cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 people annually, the sixth lowest rate in the United States.

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8. New Jersey
> Premature death rate (per 100,000): 6,329 (9th lowest)
> Adult obesity rate: 25.6% (3rd lowest)
> Adult smoking rate: 13.1% (7th lowest)
> Median household income: $81,740 (2nd highest)

New Jersey ranks among the healthiest states because of several behavioral factors, including low rates of excessive drinking, adult obesity, and smoking. Wealth, which allows for access to higher quality health care and other components of a healthy lifestyle, may also help explain the state’s high ranking. Just 9.5% of New Jersey residents live below the poverty line, the fifth lowest poverty rate of any state and well below the 13.1% national figure. The Garden State also has the second highest median household income — close to $82,000 a year, or about $20,000 more than the U.S. median.

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Source: Ken Price / Flickr

7. Minnesota
> Premature death rate (per 100,000): 5,683 (2nd lowest)
> Adult obesity rate: 30.1% (21st lowest)
> Adult smoking rate: 15.1% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $70,315 (13th highest)

Minnesota has the lowest rate of cardiovascular deaths in the nation, at just 193.8 per 100,000 people. In all, 5,683 years of life were lost to premature death — before the age of 75 — for every 100,000 people in Minnesota in 2017, the second lowest rate in the United States. By contrast, almost 7,500 years of life were lost for every 100,000 Americans nationwide. The state’s high-quality clinical care likely contributes to favorable health outcomes. Only 10 states have fewer preventable hospitalizations relative to the number of Medicare beneficiaries, and only 4.4% of residents lack health insurance, half the national average. Drinking is one of the few metrics in which the state fared poorly — 21.8% of the state’s adult population drinks excessively, the seventh largest share in the nation.

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6. New Hampshire
> Premature death rate (per 100,000): 6,770 (17th lowest)
> Adult obesity rate: 29.6% (18th lowest)
> Adult smoking rate: 15.6% (22nd lowest)
> Median household income: $74,991 (7th highest)

New Hampshire has an infant mortality rate of just 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, the second lowest of any state. There are 226 cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 people in the state, the eighth lowest rate. Additionally, nearly all teenagers in the state — 97.5% — are vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, the highest teenage Tdap immunization rate in the country. Infectious diseases such as chlamydia, whooping cough, and salmonella are less prevalent in New Hampshire than all but one state, West Virginia.

Residents also enjoy the state’s clean air. At 4.4 micrograms of harmful fine particulate matter per cubic meter, New Hampshire has the lowest air pollution rate in the country. Dirty air has been linked to stroke, lung cancer and heart disease.

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