You may pride yourself on having a healthy home and living a healthy lifestyle, but how good-for-you is your neighborhood?
You can find out, thanks to the 2012 County Health Rankings, the annual tally of the country’s healthiest (and unhealthiest) places to live as compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The survey assesses 3,000 U.S. counties on health behaviors such as exercise and smoking rates, clinical care, social and economic factors, physical environment (such as availability of sidewalks and bike paths), and number of fast food restaurants. In this year’s rankings, the researchers also calculated premature death trends over 10 years.
Each county was generally compared to others within the same state, but some larger geographic trends emerged from the data. For example, rates of teen birth and sexually transmitted infections were highest in southern states, while residents in northern states showed higher levels of alcohol abuse.
What’s the key to a healthy county? People who lived longer and with a better quality of life tended to live in regions with fewer smokers, more physically active residents, lower teen births and greater access to primary care physicians. Interestingly, healthy and unhealthy counties did not differ significantly on obesity rates or access to healthy food options.
To find out how healthy your county is, see the interactive rankings at Countyhealthrankings.org.