New Report on Senior Health Shows Rural Health Disparities Persist, Suicide Rates Are Up

May 17, 2018

The United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, now in its sixth year, found seniors living in rural areas fare differently across key markers of health compared to their urban and suburban peers.

Among the 2018 report’s key findings:

  • Rural seniors experience health disparities across a wide range of measures:
    • More seniors in rural areas are physically inactive;
    • Seniors living in rural areas are 7 percent less likely to receive a flu vaccination; and
    • Significantly more seniors in rural areas report falls (32.4 percent compared to 28.5 percent suburban and 29.5 percent of urban seniors).
  • The 2018 report highlights two measures — the suicide rate among seniors, as well as a new measure to identify locations where seniors are at higher risk of social isolation.
    • Across the nation, suicide among seniors increased 12 percent since 2014.
    • Seniors at risk of social isolation reside in less healthy states.
  • Utah is the new healthiest state for seniors, followed by Hawaii (No. 2), New Hampshire (No. 3), Minnesota (No. 4) and Colorado (No. 5). All these states ranked in the top five in 2017, showing consistency in the healthiest cohort. The states with the greatest opportunities for improving senior health are Louisiana (No. 50), Mississippi (No. 49), Kentucky (No. 48), Arkansas (No. 47) and Oklahoma (No. 46).
  • The report also highlights states that have made the greatest movements since the first Senior Report was released in 2013.
    • Rhode Island improved 22 places in the rankings, from No. 30 to No. 8. Rhode Island is followed by Alaska and Utah, which improved 17 and 9 places, respectively.
    • Arizona has experienced the greatest decline, falling 13 places from No. 18 to No. 31 over the past five years. Vermont, Kansas and Nebraska have also had large changes, declining 11, 9 and 9 places, respectively.

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