A recent study led by a group of University of Miami Miller School of Medicine public health researchers shows that Florida, Delaware, and states in the Northeast and Midwest have thriving senior populations that are healthier than those in other areas.
By contrast, seniors in Alaska and most Southern states overwhelmingly rated their quality of life as lagging, which is consistent with previous studies showing older adults in the South have a higher prevalence of smoking, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses, and lower life expectancy.
“The study provides a calculated look at how well seniors are able to perform functions of daily living and the impact that it has on their health,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Diana Kachan, a third year medical student at the Miller School.
Published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Preventing Chronic Disease, the study is the first to rate “health-related quality of life” for seniors in all 50 states. While health parameters vary by location, the rankings tend to mirror the variations seen in the rates of mortality and sickness among the elderly throughout the U.S., researchers said.
Vermont, Arizona, New Hampshire and Nevada were among the top ranking states. Southern states such as Alabama, West Virginia and Mississippi fell below the bar, but Delaware, which was considered a Southern state, ranked No. 1.
“There were tremendous variations in the quality of life, which states can use as a guide to advocate for policy changes and funding for more targeted health services delivery, to provide more activity and exercise opportunities and to improve their transportation systems,” said Dr. David Lee, professor of public health sciences, director of graduate programs, and a study collaborator.
Aside from having one of the densest populations and highest per capita incomes, Delaware has an award-winning transportation system with a statewide, door-to-door transit service for the elderly. By contrast, Alaska, which fell last on the list, has low population density, a public transportation system that seniors rated as difficult to access, and a challenging climate.