NiceRx, and online pharmacy platform, gathered data on obesity, smoking rates, exercise levels and diet from 49 of 50 states, and used data to generate a ‘health score’ for each that rates the overall health of each state from zero to ten.
The bottom of the list is entirely made up by states in the U.S. South. Louisiana is the least healthiest state, with a score of 1.32. Nearby Mississippi (1.46 health score), Alabama (2.08), Kentucky (2.15), West Virginia (2.18), Arkansas (2.22) and Oklahoma (2.24) find themselves at the bottom of the list as well.
One the other end of the spectrum, western states like Washington (8.4), Utah (7.94), Colorado (7.68), California (7.31), Oregon (7.29) join northeastern states like Massachusetts (8.36), Vermont (7.94), Connecticut (7.82), New York (7.57) and New Hampshire (7.5) as America’s healthiest.
Each state ranked by health score. Vermont and Utah were tied for the third highest score at 7.94. Florida and Hawaii tied at 14th with 6.6. Data for New Jersey was not included in the study
The ten healthiest states in America
7. New York
8. New Hampshire
The least healthiest states in America
5. West Virginia
The report considered nine factors in generating health scores for each state: obesity rates, cigarette use, life expectancy, searches for fitness classes, number of adults that exercise regularly, binge drinking rates, how often residents ate fruits and vegetables and the number of survey respondents that said they had excellent health.
Data from New Jersey was not included as NiceRx reports not being able to gather data from the Garden state on multiple metrics.
While Washington ranked as the healthiest state overall, it did not hold the top spot for any individual category. The Evergreen state is among the top ten is nearly every category, though.
Colorado, which was named the sixth healthiest state by the report, was found to have the lowest obesity rate in the country at 24.2 percent. Massachusetts, second overall, had the second lowest obesity rate — a hair behind at 24.4 percent.
Mississippi holds the dubious honor of being America’s most obese state, with 39.7 percent of residents being dangerously overweight.
The nine factors considered to determine how healthy a state is:
Prevalence of obesity
Cigarette use among adults
Fitness class searches
Percent of adults that report daily exercise
Binge drinking rates
Number of adults that eat fruit at least once a day
Number of adults that eat vegetables at least once a day
Self-reported rates of feeling like you are in ‘excellent’ health
The Magnolia state is followed by nearby West Virginia (39.1 percent of the population is obese), Alabama (39 percent) and Louisiana (38.1 percent).
The same states find themselves among those with the highest rate of cigarette use as well — with West Virginia (23.8 percent of adult residents use cigarettes), Kentucky (23.6 percent), Louisiana (21.9 percent), Mississippi (20.4 percent), Arkansas (20.2 percent), Alabama (20.2 percent) and Tennessee (19.9 percent) all finding themselves among the leaders.
The most staggering differences between states comes from the life-expectancy of residents.
Californians and Hawaiians are tied for the longest lives — with residents of each state reaching an average age of 80.9 years.
For comparison, a resident of Mississippi lives a life that is six-and-a-half years shorter, at 74.4 years. Like other metrics, many southern states like West Virginia (74.5 average years of life), Alabama (75.2), Kentucky (75.5), Tennessee (75.6), Louisiana (75.7) and Arkansas (75.7) find themselves at the bottom.
People in the U.S. south living shorter, less healthy, lives is not an unknown phenomena.
A 2018 report from Texas A&M points to a variety of factors. Southern states usually have less restrictions of tobacco and nicotine use in public — allowing rates to be higher.
Southern states are generally considered to be less ‘walkable’ as well — as public transportation is limited and residents are left car dependent.
As a result, all of the exercise and calorie burning a person who lives in a place like New York City gets throughout their day is replaced with sitting idly in a car.
The region is also suffering a massive shortage of primary care physicians, along with higher uninsured rates.
Poverty is also another major factor. Southern states generally have much higher poverty rates than their peers in the northeast and along the West coast.
Experts have long linked poverty to worse cardiovascular health. A poorer person is more likely to eat a poor diet and less likely to have regular access to a doctor.
They also may not be able to afford medication necessary to manage their health issues.
A National Institutes of Health report from 2019 also says that many poorer people live more stressful lives than their wealthier peers, which can have a massive impact on their health over time.