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UnitedHealthcare study: NJ still one of the healthiest states, despite low physical activity score

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New Jersey residents need to get off the couch. Of all of the health hazards one can face, lethargy may be the most dangerous to New Jerseyans, according to UnitedHealthcare’s 2017 America’s Health Rankings.

The study ranks states in several categories based on aggregate data collected from various sources. While New Jersey ranked as the 12th healthiest state in the country, it slipped from ninth place in 2016.  The overall healthiest state in 2017 was Massachusetts, with Hawaii, Vermont, Utah and Connecticut behind it. The overall unhealthiest states were Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and West Virginia.

Nearly 30 percent of New Jersey residents reported doing no physical activity beyond their jobs in 2017, tying the state for 46th place with Kentucky and Florida. The average percentage of people in the U.S. who do not engage in physical activity is 23.1 percent.

According to the report, physical inactivity is “a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and premature death. It is also associated with many social and environmental factors including education level, socioeconomic status, violent crime and poverty. Physical inactivity costs $117 billion annually and accounts for more than 11 percent of total U.S. health care expenditures.”

New Jersey also did not fare well in other categories, including mental health, in which it ranked 31st with only 190 mental health providers per 100,000 people in the state. The state spends only $65 per person in public health funding, which ranks 39th among all states, and ranked 29th in preventable hospitalizations, based on discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees. Approximately 27 percent of residents suffer from obesity, the 13th highest rate among all states.

Roughly 8.4 percent of New Jersey residents do not have health insurance, which ranks 25th among all states.

The report defines preventable hospitalizations as “the number of discharges for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions per 1,000 Medicare enrollees aged 65 and older.” That rate declined 1 percent in the past year from 49.9 to 49.4 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees.

On the flip side, the state ranks first in the U.S. with nearly 81 dentists per 100,000 people, and has the 8th lowest smoking rate in the country, with just 14 percent of the population considering themselves smokers. With nearly 90 percent of its high school students finishing, New Jersey has the 2nd highest high school graduation in the country. Only 17 percent of residents engage in excessive drinking, the 13th lowest rate in the country.

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Vince Calio

Vince Calio


Vince Calio covers healthcare and manufacturing for NJBIZ. You can contact him at vcalio@njbiz.com.

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