New Report Shows American Lives Are Longer, But Sicker

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As a part of their annual survey of the unhealthiest states, the United Health Foundation just released their annual findings, not just for each state, but for the US as a whole. In part, they found that even though we are making strides in medicine, we haven’t been able to offset how unhealthy our lifestyles are. We are living longer but living sicker — plagued by diabetes and high blood pressure from getting little to no exercise and our increasingly obese population.

“As a nation, we’ve made extraordinary gains in longevity over the past decades, but as individuals we are regressing in our health,” Dr. Reed Tuckson, who serves as a medical adviser to the United Health Foundation, said in a statement. “We owe this progress not only to medical breakthroughs, but to public health advocates who are working tirelessly to advance wellness on the community level. But our public health heroes cannot do it alone. Longer lives need not be sicker lives, so we must all come together to do more to prevent the risk factors within our personal control.”

A recent Gallup poll indicates that many people are starting agree that obesity is the US’s most urgent health problem, up from 1 per cent in 1999 to 16 per cent this year. Other problems that Americans site? Access to and the cost of healthcare.

These problems vary from state to state, so a lot of this depends where in the US you live— there are significant differences between the five healthiest and the five unhealthiest states.

The five healthiest states were Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. The five unhealthiest states were all located in the south: Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, and South Carolina.

The most improved states include New Jersey (nine slots), Maryland (five slots), and Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Rhode Island (three slots).

Here’s a snapshot of how healthy we are as a whole:

US health index 2012 annual report infographic

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These statistics are important to track, because it gives us a better idea of what our healthcare system will need to handle in the future. Not only can health problems mean shorter lives, but they also put a burden on our medical industry.

A press release commentary on the report noted that a 2010 report indicates that preventable diseases like diabetes and pre-diabetes will account for about 10 per cent of total health care spending by 2020, at an annual cost of almost $500 billion. It also noted that by 2030, medical costs from other obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase to $66 billion per year, and the loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually.

“High prevalence of sedentary behaviour, obesity, diabetes and hypertension means that a freight train of preventable chronic illnesses is going to crash into our health care system unless we take action now,” Dr. Tuckson said. “We – as citizens, public health advocates, employers, employees, and family members – need to address unhealthy behaviours today if we want to save our children from a lifetime of needless pain and expense.”