Study Shows ‘Dangerous’ Health Disparities Between States

SEATTLE — In what is being called the most comprehensive state-by-state health assessment ever taken in the United States, a recent study found a huge disparity between some states and others. Among the most eye-popping findings, working-age Americans in 21 states have a higher probability of premature death that all other states.

The likelihood of premature death in men and women aged 20 to 55 was highest in West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama, while the likelihood of premature death was significantly lower in California, New York, Minnesota, and several northeastern states.

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In what is being called the most comprehensive state-by-state health assessment ever taken in the United States, a recent study found a huge disparity between some states and others

“We are seeing dangerous disparities among states,” says Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which coordinated the study, in a statement. “Unless and until leaders of our health care system work together to mitigate risks, such as tobacco, alcohol, and diet, more Americans will die prematurely, and in many cases, unnecessarily.”

The study collected data and created estimates of prevalence, incidence, death, life expectancy, and other summary health metrics for all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 1995 to 2016. Some of the key factors driving early death in most Americans in this age group were alcohol-related conditions, substance abuse, and suicide.

The researchers found:

  • Highest instances of alcohol-related early deaths recorded New Mexico, the lowest in Utah
  • Highest substance abuse deaths seen in West Virginia, the lowest North Dakota
  • Highest suicide rate recorded in Utah, the lowest in Washington DC.

Opioid overdose rose from the 11th-leading cause of premature death in 1995 to seventh in 2016. Mental health disorders also saw a surge across the country during the study period, with major depression rates up 27%, and anxiety disorders up 31%. Alzheimer’s disease jumped from the seventh leading cause of years of life lost to fourth.

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In 2016, the three largest health risks for Americans were high body mass index (BMI), smoking, and high fasting plasma glucose (FPG).

“The US has witnessed some improvements among youth under 20 and seniors over 55, but overall the nation and some of our states are falling behind other, less developed countries,” says Dr. Ali Mokdad, who co-authored the study with Murray. “The strain on America’s health resources is getting worse, and the need for prevention services and greater access to and quality of medical care is increasing.”

The complete findings from the study were published April 10, 2018 in the journal JAMA.

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