For the fourth year running, Minnesota is the healthiest state in the nation, at least according to the United Health Foundation’s annual ranking. Casadian states were mostly better than average, but not by much:
- Washington ranked 15th
- Oregon and Idaho tied for 19th
- Montana ranked 22nd with California close behind at 23rd.
- Alaska ranked 31st, the only state partially in the Northwest that did worse than the national average.
Interestingly, Idaho posted the nation’s second largest one-year health decline, a worsening that researchers attributed to rising obesity, increased rates of occupational injuries, and the number of reported “poor physical health days.”
In happier news, Oregon, California, and Alaska were all in the top five states for health improvements over the period from 1990 to 2006.
Of course, there’s lots more to tease apart with a study like this (see media coverage here and here). But to me the biggest questions are simply:
- Given that Minnesota has been one of the top two healthiest states for the past 17 consecutive years, what is that state doing right?
- And what can other states do to replicate Minnesota’s success?
The obvious answer would be denounced as racist.
Eric de Place
sf,I’m not so sure that the explanation could easily break down along racial lines. To be sure, Minnesota is whiter than the national average, but so are the Northwest states (not to mention many of the Rocky Mountain and Plains states). Excluding California, Minnesota has more racial diversity than every state in the Northwest except for Washington, which is only barely more diverse. And none of the NW states are anywhere near Minnesota’s record of health. Part of the answer I suspect, may have to do with economics. Minnesota enjoys a much higher than average median income and much lower rates of poverty, child poverty, and unemployment. And while I don’t have the stats at my fingertips, I believe that income inequality is not nearly as pronounced in Minnesota as in other states. And, of course, there may also be a more generous social welfare system in place—I believe the report claims that the rate of health uninsurance is lower in Minnesota than most places.I’m not sure that economics is a full explanation, but I think it’s a start. And even if economics is the answer, it still leaves a big question hanging: how on earth do you replicate that kind of economic success?
1% for the arts.
People always think of causation, but this may be a simple case of correlation…if you are tough enough to deal with living in Minnesota, you stay…and if not, you move away (I lived in Iowa and Minnesota the first 40 years of my life and then the long cold winters got to me). One other thing: if you get outside in the elements and face them (but again, partially because you are ABLE to), you may generally have better health (think exercise, increased UV rays, etc.). Maybe we are not as healthy in Washington State because we don’t have to get out and shovel snow or chip ice off our cars on a regular basis. Anecdoctal, but the healthiest I’ve ever been was age 36-39 when I worked outside every single day of the year in MN and did not suffer a cold or the flu once in 3 whole years.