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According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2017 there were nearly 51 million adults aged 65 years and older living in the U.S., a 45 percent increase from 35 million in 2000. It is important to monitor the health trends in this growing population to help identify priorities and take action to improve the health and well-being of seniors, who accounted for an estimated 15.6 percent of the U.S. population in 2017.
The 2019 America’s Health Rankings® Senior Report provides a comprehensive look at the health of seniors across the nation and on a state-by-state basis. Thirty-four core measures of health are used to create the senior health state rankings. Supplemental measures, such as risk of social isolation, are also available on the website to highlight current and emerging issues affecting seniors. This year, a new supplemental measure, called “avoided care due to cost”, was added to address affordability of health care services and unmet medical needs due to cost.
Data for the measures are obtained from more than a dozen sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the Administration on Aging’s State Program Reports, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care.
The 2019 report includes a special 15-year focus on the health of seniors aged 65 to 74. This perspective examines how the health of young seniors has changed from 2002 to 2017 regarding population demographics, behaviors and health outcomes.
The 2018 senior report focused on disparities in health behaviors and outcomes across rural, suburban and urban areas. The 2019 report brings special attention to disparities by gender across measures of mental health and unhealthy behaviors. In addition, this year’s report and website allow users to examine national and state differences in many measures by race/ethnicity, urbanicity, education and income. Data presented at this level often reveal differences between groups that national or state aggregate data mask.
America’s Health Rankings Senior Report strives to improve senior population health by:
  • Providing a benchmark for states. Each year the report presents trends, strengths, challenges and highlights of every state. In addition, the website offers a core measure impact graphic that displays all measures in order of impact on a state’s overall rank. This enables states to zoom in on health issues that have the largest impact on senior population health. With America’s Health Rankings Senior Report’s seven years of data, community leaders, public health officials and policymakers can monitor health trends over time and compare their state with neighboring states and the nation.
  • Stimulating action. The report’s purpose is to promote data-driven discussions among individuals, community leaders, the media, policymakers and public health officials that can drive positive change and improve the health of seniors. States can incorporate the report into their annual review of programs, and many organizations use the report as a reference point when assigning goals for health-improvement plans.
  • Highlighting disparities. The state rankings show disparities in health between states and among population groups at state and national levels. The report highlights disparities in gender, race/ethnicity, urbanicity, education and income.

Key Findings

America’s Health Rankings Senior Report provides a unique snapshot of senior health for states and the nation. Since 2013, this report has yielded insights on how each state’s health changes. Most importantly, the report drives much needed action to improve the health of communities across our nation. This year’s report also sheds light on national and state level gender disparities related to mental health and unhealthy behaviors as well as provides a 15-year comparison of changes in the demographics and health of young seniors.

Then and Now: Changes in the Health of Young Seniors

The young senior population continues to grow with more than 11 million additional seniors aged 65 to 74 in 2017 than there were in 2002. Young seniors represent 9.1 percent of the U.S. population, compared with 6.4 percent of the U.S. population in 2002. This population is also more racially and ethnically diverse than it was in 2002, following a similar trend as the total U.S. population. The proportion of young Hispanic and black seniors has increased 34 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
The percentage of seniors who report their health is very good or excellent is higher in 2017 than in 2002, but the prevalence of certain unhealthy behaviors and health outcomes is higher compared with seniors in this age bracket in 2002.

State Rankings

The 2019 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report finds Hawaii is the healthiest state for seniors. Hawaii’s top rank is driven by high rankings in the behaviors, policy and health outcomes categories. Utah (No. 2), Connecticut (No. 3), Minnesota (No. 4) and Colorado (No. 5) round out the states in the top five.
Mississippi is No. 50 this year, ranking in the bottom 10 states across all five model categories. Other states in the bottom five are Kentucky (No. 49), Louisiana (No. 48), Oklahoma (No. 47) and West Virginia (No. 46).
This year’s State Summaries present state values and ranks for core measures, strengths and challenges, and changes in select measures over time. Trend graphs draw attention to food insecurity and depression, two measures highlighted in this year’s report.
Finally, a new web tool called Adjust My Rank allows users to see how improvements or declines in various measures can impact a state’s rank.

National Successes and Challenges

This year’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report finds encouraging progress in the availability and use of services that help older adults remain in their homes and communities.

The report also finds seniors still face challenges - especially with mental health, unhealthy behaviors and not visiting a doctor when needed due to cost.

Health Disparities by Gender

Behaviors, cultural norms as well as social and economic conditions influence health and can result in disparities by gender. There are well-established differences in health determinants, health outcomes and use of the health care system in the U.S. by gender. This report examines health disparities by gender in the senior population and finds large disparities in mental health and unhealthy behaviors at the national level as well as wide variations in gender disparities across states.
Mental Health

Unhealthy Behaviors

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