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Healthiest states for seniors

  • Healthiest states for seniors

    Hawaii tops the list as the state with the healthiest seniors, while Mississippi is last, facing challenges of poverty and early deaths. This ranking of states is based on the health of their seniors, across a range of measures, from obesity to excessive drinking to smoking habits and rates of poverty.

    Services to make it easier for older Americans to stay in their homes have improved across the country. The reach of SNAP—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—increased 13% and the number of home health care workers rose 44%. But problems remain, including an increased incidence of depression and such unhealthy behavior as heavy drinking. Too many seniors are deferring visits to the doctor because of cost. Differences between men and women are apparent too. Older women are more likely to be physically inactive. Men are more likely to die by suicide and to smoke and to drink too much.

    The number of young seniors, those 65 to 74, is growing and there were 11 million more in 2017 than in 2002. They are more racially and ethnically diverse with more Black and Hispanic seniors in the group. Compared to 15 years ago, fewer young seniors are dying early and they smoke less. They also are more obese and have higher rates of diabetes.

    To determine which U.S. states are the most and least healthy for their senior populations, Stacker consulted America’s Health Rankings’ 2019 Senior Report. The public health researchers behind this report analyzed 34 metrics of senior health for every state, ranging from nursing home quality to preventable hospitalizations. The metrics are split into five categories: behaviors, community and environment, policy, clinical care, and health outcomes.

    Stacker included each state’s overall score and its rank in all five categories in this story. See where your state falls on this important measure.

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  • #50. Mississippi

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.989
    - Senior behaviors rank: #48
    - Community & environment rank: #50
    - Policy rank: #41
    - Clinical care rank: #49
    - Health outcomes rank: #50

    Mississippi faces serious challenges, with 13.7% of its seniors living in poverty, compared to 9.3% nationally, and a high early death rate. On the plus side is its low rate of excessive drinking among older adults. Many more adults die in hospice care than hospital ICUs.

  • #49. Kentucky

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.88
    - Senior behaviors rank: #49
    - Community & environment rank: #47
    - Policy rank: #32
    - Clinical care rank: #44
    - Health outcomes rank: #49

    Kentucky has a low percentage of nursing home residents needing care in the category of "only with everyday tasks" and conversely a high percentage of those with a personal doctor. Poverty fell 13% among older adults over the past six years, but food insecurity grew 10% over the past four years.

  • #48. Louisiana

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.857
    - Senior behaviors rank: #50
    - Community & environment rank: #49
    - Policy rank: #34
    - Clinical care rank: #38
    - Health outcomes rank: #43

    For Louisiana’s seniors, there is a high rate of home health care workers. A large number of seniors have a personal doctor and they make use of hospice care, which increased 20% in the past five years. On the minus side, obesity and food insecurity are common and excessive drinking rose from 6.4% to 8.7% among older residents over the past two years.

  • #47. Oklahoma

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.784
    - Senior behaviors rank: #46
    - Community & environment rank: #40
    - Policy rank: #48
    - Clinical care rank: #42
    - Health outcomes rank: #45

    Oklahoma seniors get their flu shots—68.5% of them. And they have a low prevalence of excessive drinking at 3.5%. They are smoking less, with smoking dropping 22% in the past two years. But obesity rose 21% in the past six years.

  • #46. West Virginia

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.687
    - Senior behaviors rank: #47
    - Community & environment rank: #43
    - Policy rank: #18
    - Clinical care rank: #37
    - Health outcomes rank: #47

    West Virginia is seeing a rise in obesity among seniors, up 21% in the past six years. Food insecurity is also increasing. The state faces a low percentage of able-bodied seniors and a high early death rate. On the plus side, few seniors drink to excess and many get flu shots.

  • #45. Arkansas

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.652
    - Senior behaviors rank: #42
    - Community & environment rank: #39
    - Policy rank: #36
    - Clinical care rank: #43
    - Health outcomes rank: #48

    Few seniors in Arkansas drink to excess, but they also are not active and have a high early death rate. In the past year, obesity rose 11% and the incidence of depression among seniors increased 23%, but food insecurity decreased 31%.

  • #44. Alabama

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.594
    - Senior behaviors rank: #43
    - Community & environment rank: #37
    - Policy rank: #28
    - Clinical care rank: #31
    - Health outcomes rank: #46

    Obesity dropped 4% in the past two years, and poverty fell by 8% over the past six years, but food insecurity rose by 12% in the past two years. Few seniors in Alabama drink excessively, but they also are not physically active.

  • #43. Tennessee

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.528
    - Senior behaviors rank: #41
    - Community & environment rank: #42
    - Policy rank: #13
    - Clinical care rank: #45
    - Health outcomes rank: #44

    Tennessee has a low prevalence of excessive drinking and a high percentage of seniors who are managing their diabetes. On the minus side, few get their flu shots, with vaccination coverage falling 26% in the past four years, and there is a high prevalence of smoking, even after it decreased 12% in the past two years.

  • #42. New Mexico

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.454
    - Senior behaviors rank: #31
    - Community & environment rank: #45
    - Policy rank: #43
    - Clinical care rank: #35
    - Health outcomes rank: #42

    A high percentage of New Mexico’s seniors are poor, with a high prevalence of food insecurity and a low number with a personal doctor. Smoking increased 31% in the past year. Seniors also have a low prevalence of obesity.

  • #41. Georgia

    - Overall score (relative to U.S. average): -0.416
    - Senior behaviors rank: #40
    - Community & environment rank: #48
    - Policy rank: #23
    - Clinical care rank: #26
    - Health outcomes rank: #39

    Georgia has low numbers of seniors who drink excessively, however, the prevalence increased 19% in the past two years. Physical inactivity also rose 17% in the same period. On the other hand, poverty decreased 10% over the past six years.