New Analysis Shows Increases in Obesity, Multiple Chronic Diseases

09 Dec, 2022 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – United Health Foundation (UHF), a nonprofit and private foundation established by UnitedHealth Group in 1999, has recently released its 2022 America's Health Rankings report after a two-year gap in reporting. The 39-page report details findings that reflect some disturbing changes in the health of American Adults. 

The report ranks states across 83 metrics including health outcomes, behaviors, environment, and social and economic elements. The report utilizes reporting from 29 outside sources including the CDC, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Census Bureau and the Morning Consult. The report uses the World Health Organization’s definition of health, “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Between 2019 and 2020, the rate of premature death in individuals under the age of 75 increased by 18 percent. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the top causes of early death in 2020 included unintentional injury, cancer, heart disease, COVID-19, suicide, homicide, liver disease and diabetes. The top factors contributing to premature death included social, environmental, and behavioral factors. The increase represents the largest increase in deaths in any single year, with New York seeing the highest increase at 31 percent. Other top states included Arizona at a 26 percent increase, and New Jersey at 24 percent. Additionally, the death rate in Mississippi was 2.1 times higher than the death rate in Hawaii.

According to the report, drug deaths were the leading cause of injury death, with an increase of 56.5 percent between 2013 and 2019. The increase in drug deaths from 2019 to 2020 was 30 percent, with 75 percent of deaths involving opioids. West Virginia saw the highest increase at 54 percent, followed by South Carolina at 53 percent, and Kentucky at a 51 percent increase. Additionally, the drug death rate in ages 35 to 44 were 4.1 times higher than age category 65 to 74. The drug death rate in males was 2.3 times higher than the female death rate. 

The number of adults who reported using prescription drugs non-medically or illicit drugs increased 29 percent within the last 12 months, going from 12 percent up to 15 percent. West Virginia saw the most drastic increase at 82 percent, increasing from 14.1 percent to 25.7 percent. By group, those with less than a high school education saw the large increase at 46 percent, followed by income bracket $25-$74,999 annually at 45 percent increase. 

The number of adults reporting mental health issues increased 11 percent. Alaska saw the greatest increase in reported mental issues at 41 percent, going from 9.9 percent to 14.0 percent. Illinois saw a 29 percent increase in mental distress, increasing from 10.0 percent to 12.9 percent. Maine ranked third for largest increase at 21 percent, going from 10.0 percent to 12.9 percent. 

The number of adults with multiple chronic conditions increased 5 percent from 2020 to 2021. What is interesting is that the number of adults with multiple chronic conditions had decreased by 4 percent the previous year. While the trend held steady across all states, at 18.1 percent West Virginia had 3.2 times the rate of multiple chronic conditions as Hawaii at 5.6 percent. In comparing ages, the 65 and older category had 6.4 times the rate of chronic multiple conditions as those in the 18 to 44 age category. For social and economic groupings, the highest increase was seen in those that made $25,000 annually or less at 8 percent. This income group was 4.1 times higher than the over $75,000 annual income category. 

Three of eight chronic conditions increased 5 percent or more. Alarmingly, Cancer saw a 10 percent increase. Arthritis and depression increased by 5 percent. The most prevalent chronic condition in 2021 was arthritis, accounting for 25.8 percent. Depression came in second at 20.5 percent. Diabetes ranked third at 10.9 percent. 

The level of obesity increased 6 percent from 2020 to 2021, going from 31.9 percent to 33.9 percent, representing an all-time high. Five states saw significant increases with New Mexico and Montana having the highest increase at 12 percent. At 40.6 percent, West Virginia’s level of obesity was 1.6 times higher than Hawaii’s at 25.0 percent. The District of Columbia had the lowest prevalence of obesity overall at 24.7 percent. 

The level of adults with high cholesterol increased by 7 percent, with 14 states seeing a significant change. South Dakota saw the highest increase at 31 percent. At 41.0 percent, West Virginia’s level of high cholesterol was 1.3 times higher than Montana’s rate at 30.5 percent. 

Overall, New Hampshire ranked healthiest state in the U.S. and Louisiana ranked least healthy. While the U.S. ranked 31st in life expectancy, they ranked first in healthcare dollars spent. 





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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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