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W.Va. Ranks Lowest in Healthy Life Years, Hawaii First, Report Finds

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a 26-year study on the burden of diseases and injuries in the U.S. The report found that West Virginia has the lowest healthy life expectancy years of any state in the union. West Virginia’s rate is almost 18 years lower than the healthiest life expectancy state - Hawaii. The greatest disease burden was caused by heart disease and lung cancer.

The main risk factors associated with U.S. morbidity and mortality are poor diet, smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

The report found the probability of death from birth to age 20 in West Virginia has decreased slightly in the last 20 years, but the state is still ranked sixth highest in that index.

On the other hand, the probability of death from age 20-55 has increased more than two and a half percent in West Virginia over the same time period, ranking West Virginia first in the country. The increase is attributed to mental and substance use disorders followed by diabetes. 

The authors write that the performance of the U.S. health care system doesn’t match its level of spending on health and that America lags behind other countries with similar financial resources.

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Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.

Copyright 2018 West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Kara Leigh Lofton is the Appalachia Health News Coordinator at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Previously Kara was a freelance reporter for WMRA, an affiliate of NPR serving the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville in Virginia. There she produced 70 radio reports in her first year of reporting, most often on health or environmental topics. One of her reports, “Trauma Workers Find Solace in a Pause That Honors Life After a Death,” circulated nationally after proving to be an all-time favorite among WMRA’s audience.