America’s Health Rankings Senior Report names Colorado 5th healthiest state

The 2019 Senior Report compiled by America’s Health Rankings (AHR) ranked Colorado as the 5th healthiest state for seniors. The report considers the population 65+ when making determinations.  

 

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Some of the key strengths in Colorado are: the low prevalence of food insecurity, the low prevalence of physical inactivity, and the low early death rate. Some key challenges for the state continue to be the high percentage of low-care nursing home residents, the low SNAP enrollment, and the low percentage of home-delivered meals.

AHR determined health outcomes by analyzing four categories of health: behaviors, community and environment, policy, and clinical care. According to the report, the goal is to provide a benchmark of success for these states, to encourage policy action, and to highlight disparities among states.

The report compiles a list of national successes and challenges. States are compared to the national average

Nationally, over the past six years, food insecurity decreased 14 percent, SNAP reach increased 13 percent, the number of home health care workers available to seniors increased by 44 percent, and the availability of hospice care increased by 48 percent, overall.

The rate of depression increased 19 percent, excessive drinking showed an increase of 12 percent, and the high rate of health care increased the rate of avoidance of care 5 percent overall nationally.

The highest-rated states typically earned a top-10 score for both behaviors and health outcomes rankings, while the lowest ranked states typically scored near the bottom 10 in these categories. This suggests that these two categories are large drivers in determining overall health.

Colorado scored a 3 in the behaviors category, and an 8 in health outcomes. Findings and trends specific to Colorado include:

When examining food insecurity in each state, Colorado ranks the healthiest, at 5.8 percent. Since 2017, food insecurity among seniors has increased by 7.9 percentage points in the state. In the past three years, food insecurity has decreased by 60 percent, overall.

From 2018 to 2019, the rate of home health care workers available to seniors increased 21 percent from 112.3 per 1,000 adults, to 135.5. Colorado is above the national average in this category, with between 100 and 150 home health care workers per 1,000 seniors.

Nationally, the number of seniors enrolled in hospice care has doubled over the past decade. In the past year, the rate has increased 5 percent. Colorado had one of the smallest increases in hospice care, according to this report: an increase of 10.6 percentage points. Utah, the healthiest state in this category, increased 67.1 percent.

The rate of depression has increased 19 percent in the past year, nationally. Yet, Colorado did not report a statistically significant change in this category. When measuring the frequency of mental distress and depression, Colorado ranked in the top 10 for healthiest states in this category.

The report also analyzes a number of challenges identified in each state.

The report also analyzed the affordability of health care services and unmet medical needs among seniors. Nationally, nearly 2.7 million seniors avoided care due to costs. Colorado ranks below the national average in this category, nearly 4.6 percent of seniors reported not seeing a doctor due to costs in the state.

The disparities between gender, educational attainment, and income level were also analyzed in the report.

Depression is highest among seniors at the lowest income level, and also varies by educational attainment and gender. Frequent mental health distress, depression and physical inactivity are highest among females, while suicide, excessive drinking and smoking is highest among males. In Colorado, the suicide gender disparity ratio is greater than the national average and depression has increased 11 percent overall in the past six years.

In the past three years, excessive drinking has increased in Colorado 23 percent from 5.7 percent of seniors drinking excessively to 7.0 percent.

Poverty has also increased by 11 percent in the past two years.

In 2018, Colorado ranked number 4 in the Senior Report.