California Plummets in National Senior Health Rankings

Friday, May 29, 2015

California senior citizens, who may tend to have a greater appreciation for good health than immortal millennials and the general population, had a rotten 2014.

America’s Health Rankings from the UnitedHealth Foundation said California’s 65-and-older crowd dropped 11 spots, to 29th place among the states, on the strength of a 23% increase in chronic drinking (from 4.3% to 5.3%) and a two-year 29% decrease in physical activity.

But it takes more than being inebriated and immobile to nab you a below-average spot on the list. The third-annual report from the nonprofit arm of the parent company that owns the UnitedHealthcare insurance company, uses 41 measurements of community and environment, behavior, policies, clinical care, medical outcomes, and supplemental data.  

California was dead last among the 50 states in senior participation in CalFresh, California’s name for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It used to be called the Food Stamp Program. The state also ranked poorly (pdf) for:

48th Poor mental health days

47th Percentage of hospital deaths

47th Percentage of ICU deaths

46th Chronic drinking

46th Number of home-delivered meals

43rd Underweight

42nd Available home health care workers

41st Percentage of hospice deaths

40th Community financial support

39th Poverty

39th Food insecurity

California did have good categories, too. They were:

2nd Teeth extractions 

4th Obesity

4th Hip fractures

5th Prescription drug coverage

5th Premature death

6th Dental visits

7th Education

7th Depression

8th Physical inactivity

8th Smoking

9th Preventable hospitalizations

Although California’s drop was precipitous, it could be worse. The state is not Louisiana. California was at least 6th in behaviors, like smoking and obesity. Louisiana, on its way to a dead-last ranking, was 49th. Louisiana was also last in community and environment, clinical care and medical outcomes. The state was joined at the bottom in reverse order by Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, Nevada, Alabama and Texas.

Vermont residents drink a lot, fall down too often and don’t make use of hospice enough, but they are still No. 1 in the health rankings. Their seniors are the best at utilizing SNAP, they have the finest health outcomes and they get the top score for clinical care. Vermont was followed by New Hampshire, Minnesota, Hawaii, Utah, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon and Connecticut.

All of the states in the Bottom 10 cast their Electoral College votes for Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. All of the Top 10 states, except for Utah, voted for Democratic President Barack Obama.

–Ken Broder  


To Learn More:

California Drops to 29th in U.S. Senior Health Rankings (by Sammy Caiola, Sacramento Bee)

Older Americans Are Progressing in Several Key Measures but Inactivity Sees Sharp Rise (United Health Foundation)

America’s Health Rankings Senior Report (United Health Foundation)

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