Health & Wellness

Hawaii tops rankings of the healthiest states in the U.S.

Hawaii doesn’t just look like paradise — it truly seems to be bliss for your overall well-being, yet another national report has found.

The Aloha State topped America’s Health Rankings Annual Report for the fifth year in a row, the United Health Foundation announced Wednesday.

Factors that make Hawaii No. 1 include a low rate of obesity, a low percentage of people without health insurance, and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations, the report noted.

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At the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi was ranked at the bottom of the list. Its challenges include a high rate of smoking and low birth weight, and a high percentage of children in poverty. Mississippi residents have a high rate of obesity and are the least active in the nation.

"It's a pretty tough story for them," Dr. Reed Tuckson, external clinical adviser to the United Health Foundation, told TODAY.

In general, Northeastern states ranked among the healthiest this year, while Southeastern states had “the greatest challenges,” the report found. One reason is the relationship between health and socioeconomic status, with wealthier regions getting a health advantage, Tuckson explained.

"We're almost, in many ways when it comes to health, a tale of two nations," he said. "We are at a crossroads. We have some very good trends... but we're [also] seeing very bad things."

The encouraging trends include smoking down 41 percent among adults since 1990 and the rate of uninsured Americans down by 35 percent in the last five years. The number of preventable hospitalizations dropped by 35 percent over the past decade.

But there were also troubling findings.

The cardiovascular death rate — the number of heart disease deaths per 100,000 Americans — rose in the past year for the first time in the 27-year history of the report.

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The premature death rate was up for the second consecutive year.

"It ought to be a wake-up call for everybody," Tuckson said. "It's really starting to become something that is very worrisome."

Where does your state rank?

The rate of drug deaths has risen by 9 percent over the past five years, it added. Obesity continues to be a challenge, with the number of obese adults up 157 percent since 1990. About a quarter of Americans get no exercise beyond getting up and going to work, Tuckson said.

The finding of Hawaii as the healthiest state is consistent with another report, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which also found the Aloha State No. 1 in its rankings earlier this year. When it came to the five least healthy states, the only finding the two reports had in common was Oklahoma.

The nation’s five healthiest states are:

1. Hawaii

2. Massachusetts

3. Connecticut

4. Minnesota

5. Vermont

The five states at the bottom of the list are:

50. Mississippi

49. Louisiana

48. Arkansas

47. Alabama

46. Oklahoma

The report ranks states across various measures of health, including people's personal health decisions, like what they eat and how much they move; the environment in which they live and work; decisions made by public officials; and the quality of medical care.

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