Unhealthier than it was a year ago, Minnesota drops down national rankings

The Land of 10,000 Lakes has fallen from 4th place to 6th in national health rankings.

What's happening?

The United Health Foundation has released its America's Health Rankings report for 2017, which looks at a variety of data to determine the state with the healthiest people.

This year, Minnesota ranked sixth in a list topped for the first time by Massachusetts. 

6th isn't bad, right?

No, but given Minnesota's recent history in the rankings, it's not great either and points to a potentially worrying trend that the state is getting unhealthier.

Minnesota was ranked 4th in the last in 2016 and has been number 1 on seven occasions since 1990 – including for four years in a row between 2003-06.

What are we doing wrong?

Minnesota has one of the highest rates in the country for binge drinking, with 22.3 percent of Minnesotans admitting to drinking excessively – the third worst rate in the country.

Binge drinking is defined as having 4 or more alcohol drinks for women, 5 for men, on a single occasion within the past 30 days, or "chronic drinking," which is 8 drinks a week for women, 15 for men.

The state also has a high incidence of pertussis – also known as whooping cough – despite a vaccine being available for it, as well as public health funding of $73 per resident, which is only the 33rd best in the nation.

Some other areas of concern is that diabetes in adults has increased in Minnesota from 7.6 to 8.4 percent, while incidents of chlamydia have risen 15 percent in the last three years.

An increase in diabetes cases could have something to do with Minnesota's rising obesity rate, which was at just 10.3 percent in 1990 but according to the State of Obesity hit 27.8 percent in 2016.

What are we good at?

On the plus side, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has ensured that Minnesota has a low percentage of citizens without health insurance.

Its 4.3 percent uninsured rate is the 4th highest in the nation, and it's dropped from 9.5 percent five years ago.

Minnesota also has the lowest rate of cardiovascular deaths in the country, 189.7 deaths per 100,000 residents, as well as a low percentage of children in poverty.

While the state still has one of the higher smoking rates, the 14th highest in the country, there has been a notable drop in smokers from 19.1 percent five years ago to 15.2 percent of adults now.

Cities in Minnesota have been taking more of a stand against smoking, increasing minimum ages to buy cigarettes to 21 and cracking down on flavored tobacco aimed at younger smokers.

That said, the most recent budget agreed by the Minnesota legislature included a cut to tobacco taxes that generated a still-ongoing feud between Republican lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton.

Any national concerns? 

One of the big concerns nationally is the rise in premature deaths, which MinnPost notes is being linked to the opioid crisis.

Drug deaths nationally rose 7 percent in the last year alone, contributing to a premature death rate that has risen 3 percent since 2015 despite falling 20 percent between 1990 and 2015.

Minnesota has the lowest premature death rate in the nation, with 5,555 people dying before the age of 75 for every 100,000 residents.

Although it's not mentioned in the report, one thing that certainly causes premature deaths in Minnesota is off-road vehicle accidents.

The Consumer Federation of America reported on Wednesday that Minnesota has seen the most off-road vehicle deaths of any state so far in 2017.

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