How healthy is your county compared to the rest of Massachusetts?
A new study found significant differences in health outcomes between counties across the Bay State.
Some good news for Bay Staters — the University of Wisconsin’s 2023 rankings of the healthiest counties in the U.S. show that Massachusetts residents on average have significantly better health outcomes than a majority of the country.
That said, the rankings also show that people in some Massachusetts counties are significantly healthier than those in others.
Massachusetts counties ranked by health:
Why some counties are healthier than others
While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is causing certain counties to have better health outcomes than others, when comparing the top two healthiest counties in the state to the bottom two, the study had many telling findings.
The starkest difference by far was the rate of premature deaths. The study found that Hampden and Berkshire Counties have approximately double the rate of premature deaths of Nantucket and Middlesex Counties.
Additionally, people in Berkshire and Hampden Counties report having notably higher rates of poor physical and mental health days than people in Nantucket and Middlesex Counties.
While there was significant variation among all Massachusetts counties in regards to the “health behaviors” the study took into account, the study shows some consistent differences between the two top and two bottom counties. The bottom two counties both had notably higher rates of adult smoking, physical inactivity, and teen births than the top two.
Socioeconomic factors that affect health outcomes were also consistently different between the two top and two bottom Massachusetts counties, the study found.
Most notably, the study found that the child poverty rates in the bottom two counties were more than double that of the top two counties, with Hampden County having a significantly higher rate than the country on average. While the country on average has a child poverty rate of 17%, Hampden County was found to have a shocking rate of 25%.
This could be related to the fact that the bottom two counties were also found to have significantly higher rates of children in single-parent households.
Some other notable socioeconomic differences the study found include the top two counties having much higher rates of college attendance and much lower rates of injury-related deaths.
Massachusetts ranks highly on access to healthcare
Though the study found that health outcomes were significantly better in certain Massachusetts counties, the state as a whole performed extremely well in comparison to the country on average in regards to healthcare access.
The study found two major factors that contribute to this.
Firstly, Massachusetts was found to have a significantly lower rate of uninsured residents than the country on average, at 3% and 10%, respectively. This is likely due to the state’s high average income and the fact that MassHealth is available to both low and some middle income residents.
Secondly, doctors in Massachusetts were found to be responsible for fewer patients that doctors nationwide, and thus have more availability and can spend more time on each patient.
This was found to be consistent across all types of healthcare professionals, from primary care doctors to dentists to mental health professionals.
Massachusetts residents are healthier overall
But Massachusetts residents also seem to behave more healthfully than the country on average. The study found that we have significantly lower rates of adult smokers, obesity, sexually transmitted infections, and teen births.
Massachusetts also performed well compared to the rest of the country in many other areas. The study found that we have significantly higher rates of college attendance and voter turnout, and significantly lower rates of child poverty, injury-related deaths, homicides, suicides, firearm deaths, car crash deaths, and air pollution.
The only areas where Massachusetts performed significantly worse than the country on average was in regards to preventable hospital stays, alcohol-related car crash deaths, and income inequality.
With all that in mind, it’s not surprising that the study found that Massachusetts has a much lower rate of premature deaths than the country on average.
Source: Boston Globe
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