Health can be defined as being free from illness or injury or as a person’s mental or physical condition. The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well0bring and not just as the absence of disease or infirmity.
Health has different meanings for different people and is measured differently for everyone. Some people place levels of health more on appearance, weight, and physical fitness, while others place more value on mental well-being. Others may focus on the absence of medical conditions and diseases.
The United States, by far, spends the most on healthcare more than any other country. Despite this, the country still struggles with a high prevalence of chronic health conditions and preventable deaths.
Levels of Health Among States
Like many other things, health levels and statistics are not uniform across all 50 states.
This is evident is obesity rates across the country. Obesity is a major health problem in the United States. It can lead to other serious health problems such as certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the adult obesity rate in the U.S. was 42.4% in 2017-2018. This is a significant increase from 30.5% in 1999-2000. The states with the highest obesity rates are West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.
The prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. has increased from 9.5% to 10.9% from 2012 to 2018.
While healthy behaviors and active lifestyles are the largest contributors to good health, health can be affected by several factors, including:
- Financial safety (especially household income)
- Community safety
Because these factors can vary greatly between states, each state has a different overall level of health and well-being.
Most Unhealthy U.S. States
Which states are the unhealthiest?
To determine which states are the unhealthiest, data can be drawn from the 2019 America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation. The ranking includes factors such as healthy behaviors quality of health care, health policy, the presence of disease, and deaths from illnesses.
Below are the ten most unhealthy states in the United States. The unhealthiest states in the U.S. are mostly located in the South.
Mississippi has consistently been the country’s most unhealthy state for several years. While Mississippi has a low drug death rate and low prevalence of excessive drinking, it falls behind in many other categories. About 32.0% of Mississippi residents report getting no regular exercise, making it the most physically inactive state in the U.S. The state also has the highest obesity rate in the country of 39.5%.
Mississippi’s neighbor Louisiana is the second-most unhealthy state in the U.S. Louisiana has a very high rate of obesity as well at 36.8%, the fourth-highest rate in the nation. About 30.8% of Louisiana’s residents report no regular exercise, the fifth-highest giro for that statistic. Louisiana also has the fifth-highest cardiovascular deaths at 323.5 per 100,000 and the fourth-highest rate of diabetes of 14.1%.
Arkansas has a high prevalence of both obesity and smoking, at 37.1% and 22.7%, both of which are the third-highest rates in the U.S. Additionally, Arkansas has the third-highest rate of physical inactivity, with only 69.0% of residents reporting regular physical exercise. Arkansas also has the third-highest infant mortality rate in the country at 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Mississippi’s other neighbor, Alabama, is the fourth unhealthiest state in the United States. While the state has a high percentage of high school graduation and a low prevalence of excessive drinking, it has a high prevalence of diabetes and high cardiovascular death rates. Alabama’s diabetes rate is 14.5%, which is the second-highest rate in the country. The state’s cardiovascular death rate is 347.0 per 100,000, the third-highest in the country. Alabama also has the second-highest infant mortality rate at 8.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
Oklahoma is the fifth-most unhealthy state in the U.S. despite having a low prevalence of excessive drinking and a high rate of mental health providers. Over one-third (34.8%) of Oklahoma’s adult population is obese. Additionally, the state has the second-highest rate of cardiovascular deaths at 347.5 deaths per 100,000. furthermore, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate is 7.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, the fourth-highest in the U.S.
6. West Virginia
West Virginia has a low prevalence of excessive drinking, a low incidence of chlamydia, and high immunization coverage among children, but iy still is one of the unhealthiest states in the nation. The number of drug deaths in West Virginia is the highest of any state at 48.3 deaths per 100,000 people. West Virginia also has the second-highest obesity rate at 39.5% and the highest adult smoking rate of 25.2%.
Tennessee is the seventh-most unhealthy state in the country with a high prevalence of smoking at 20.7% and the second-highest violent crime rate at 624 per 100,000 people. Tennessee also has the sixth-highest rates of cancer deaths, cardiovascular deaths, and diabetes.
As the eighth-most unhealthy state, Kentucky struggles with a high prevalence of physical inactivity, a high prevalence of frequent mental distress, and high cancer death rates. Kentucky’s prevalence of physical inactivity is the highest in the country at 32.4% and the cancer death rate is the highest in the country as well at 233.4 deaths per 100,000. The adult smoking rate is 23.4%, the second-highest in the country. Kentucky, however, does have a high percentage of high school graduation, a low prevalence of excessive drinking, and a low violent crime rate.
While South Carolina has a low prevalence of excessive drinking, relatively low levels of air pollution, and a low drug death rate. South Carolina’s infectious disease rate is the second-highest in the country. The chlamydia rate in South Carolina is the fifth-highest in the country at 641.6 per 100,00 and its salmonella incident rate is the third-highest in the country at 29.3 cases per 100,000.
Finishing the list of the ten most unhealthy states in the U.S. is Indiana. Indiana has a low prevalence of excessive drinking and high immunization coverage among adolescents. The state, however, has a high prevalence of smoking with an adult smoking rate of 21.1%. The obesity rate is still over one-third of the population 34.1% and 27.4% of residents report physical inactivity. This is despite Indiana having the fourth-highest public health funding per person of $53 per person.