It’s well known that where you live can influence your health. The recently released United Health Foundation’s 2018 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report dives into this issue. The sixth annual report finds that older adults who live in rural areas often experience poorer health outcomes and receive fewer preventive services than those in urban and suburban environments. It also sheds light on how states rank related to certain behaviors and health outcomes.
The report found that seniors in rural areas are 13 percent more likely to be physically inactive than their peers in suburban and urban areas, 7 percent less likely to receive the flu vaccination than those in urban areas and 11 percent less likely to receive health screenings compared with suburban and urban peers.
“It is our goal with this report to help seniors, family caregivers and advocates better understand the specific health concerns in their own communities so we can all work together to address them,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, senior adviser to the United Health Foundation and chief medical officer and executive vice president, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “By examining the differences in health between seniors living in rural areas and those living in urban and suburban areas, for example, we believe we can empower communities to help seniors access the resources and services they need to live happier, healthier lives.”
The health determinants in the report are grouped into four measurement areas: behaviors, community/environment, policy and clinical care. Related to behaviors, the report looked at six metrics: smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, physical inactivity, dental visits and pain management. Utah was the top-ranked state for overall health and behavioral measures, ranking in the top five for the smoking, drinking and physical activity categories. Pennsylvania made the most progress in behavioral measures, improving its behavioral ranking from 50 to 21 and seeing the largest increase in score.
Several states’ overall health rankings moved five or more places since 2017. Iowa and Pennsylvania made the most progress, both improving nine spots, while Arizona and Washington experienced the largest declines, dropping eight and seven ranks, respectively.
While these rankings might seem unrelated to daily life, keep in mind that many of the measures are made up of the actions of individuals. There are many things you can do to help improve your own health, from making sure to schedule regular dentist appointments to being more physically active. Whether making a new commitment to take regular walks or tackling a big lifestyle change like quitting tobacco use, behavior changes can make a meaningful impact on health.
The 2018 Senior Report was developed with guidance from an advisory committee of aging and senior health experts. Visit www.AmericasHealthRankings.org to read the full report and explore how your state stacks up.