Massachusetts Is the Second Healthiest State in the Country

A new report puts Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont in the top five.

America's Health Rankings

Map via America’s Health Rankings report

A new, comprehensive national health analysis brings good news for Massachusetts.

According to the annual America’s Health Rankings report, now in its 27th year, New England is a pretty great place to be. Massachusetts was ranked the second healthiest state in the country, followed by Connecticut at number three and Vermont at number five. Hawaii took first for the fifth year running, and Minnesota rounded out the top five.

The report, compiled by the United Health Foundation, assesses each state on 34 health metrics, each one falling under the umbrellas of behaviors, community and environment, policy, or clinical care. Massachusetts did well in all the usual suspect categories: We have a low obesity rate, a high percentage of residents with health insurance, and a large number of primary care physicians. No surprises there. We also deal well with occupational safety, infant mortality, cardiovascular disease, and a number of other health determinants.

Now for the bad news. The report cites the Commonwealth’s high rates of excessive drinking, Salmonella infection, and drug mortality—the last of which has increased by 34 percent over the past three years, rising from 11.7 to 15.7 fatalities per 100,000 people. Health disparity is also a big issue here, the report says, with vast differences between the wellness of highly educated people versus those with less schooling.

The report also looks at nationwide health trends, both good and bad. While rates of smoking, preventable hospitalizations, and living without health insurance are way down, the research did identify some causes for concern. Cardiovascular disease-related deaths are increasing—albeit minimally—for the first time in the project’s 27-year history, as are drug deaths and premature deaths. Perhaps most startling, America’s obesity rate has skyrocketed by 157 percent since the report began almost three decades ago.

All in all, the data shows “that the health of the nation is at a critical crossroad between making encouraging progress against long-standing public health challenges, while treading into dangerous territory on other key health indicators.”

While we in the Commonwealth are performing well above average in a number of areas, we certainly have our own public health issues to wrestle with, namely the opioid epidemic. Let this report serve as both a pat on the back and a call to action.