Does your location impact your health?

by brenda on February 4, 2012

Do you know a lot of people with lung cancer? Children with Autism? People with Asthma? For the United States, the CDC has state-by-state information on most of the common diseases. Do you know where your state falls in the statistics?

I analyzed the data (because I’m a geek, and I like this kind of stuff!). πŸ™‚ I made a spreadsheet, with the states going down the left, and the diseases going across the top. I gave the rates of disease a number score (based on low, mild, moderate or high instances), added up the total for each state, and divided it by the # of diseases I had data for. So, I gave each state a score–to show how low or high your total chance of disease is in each state. Want to know what I found?

First, the diseases I studied: Arthritis, Fatal Strokes, Asthma, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Ovarian Cancer, Testicular Cancer, Thyroid Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Skin Cancer, Colon and Rectal Cancers, Cervical Cancer, Β Brain and Nervous System Cancers, Corpus and Uterus Cancers, Esophageal Cancer, Breast Cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Kidney and Renal Cancers, Leukemia, Liver Cancer, and Lung Cancer. Note that I could not find any clear state-by-state data about the rate of heart disease. I would love to have this information, so if you know where I can find it, please share! πŸ™‚

The top 20 states to live in (if you want to be disease free), according to my data (best to worst):

  1. Arizona
  2. Montana
  3. South Dakota
  4. New Mexico
  5. Florida
  6. Utah
  7. California
  8. Wyoming
  9. Colorado
  10. South Carolina
  11. Virginia
  12. Arkansas
  13. Hawaii
  14. Texas
  15. Alabama
  16. Georgia
  17. Maryland
  18. North Carolina
  19. Alaska
  20. Idaho

The bottom 20 states to live in (if you want diseases!), according to my data (worst to best):

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Rhode Island
  3. New Jersey
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Maine
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  9. Michigan
  10. New York
  11. Kentucky
  12. New Hampshire
  13. Iowa
  14. West Virginia
  15. Vermont
  16. Illinois
  17. Nebraska
  18. Nevada
  19. Oregon
  20. Wisconsin

It’s not as cut and dry as it seems though. It really depends what diseases you are most afraid of. πŸ˜‰ In Arizona, there is a low chance of most cancers–except, there is a moderate risk of Thyroid Cancer. In Montana, there is a low to mild risk of most diseases–except there is a moderate risk of fatal strokes, and a moderate risk of Leukemia. California and New Mexico are on the top 20 list, however, these two states have high rates of Liver Cancer.

The bottom Β states on my list aren’t necessarily all bad, either. In Rhode Island and New Jersey, there is a high risk of most types of cancer, but a low chance of a fatal stroke. Oklahoma is high in many things, but you won’t find many people with Autism or Thyroid Cancer there.

There are many variables that impact this data. The environment may be an issue–are there more molds in the air, is there more sun exposure, how close is the state to the equator, etc. And what kinds of factories are present? And how much pollution is there? And how prevalent is alcoholism? And, since this is a blog about food, what kinds of food are these people eating? There are a lot of factors to consider.

If you want to see the CDC maps for yourself, look here:





Where do you live?

Where do you want to move, after reading this? πŸ™‚

photo credit: archibald jude

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryse1168 February 4, 2012 at 11:45 am

well I have always wanted to go back to Arizona! Now I can! And with new motive


Brenda February 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Awesome! Maybe wear a lead necklace to protect yourself from thyroid cancer, and you’re set! Hee, hee. Just joking, of course! πŸ™‚ Your risks of mostly everything are very low in Arizona (which is amazing, because don’t many people move there to retire? You would think that would skew the statistics, with so many older people there…the exposure to the sun, heat, etc., and maybe the fresh citrus fruits must be very healing!!)…. πŸ™‚


Renee DeGroot February 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I’m happy to live in Montana! πŸ™‚


Brenda February 4, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Renee, what part of Montana are you from? How is the real-food climate there? (One reader mentioned Wyoming, once, as being a state where people are unaware of “real food” and look at you weird when you ask about organic…Is Montana like that too?) πŸ™‚


Renee DeGroot February 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Hi! I replied to you before I saw your question about Wyoming, but had mentioned it in my email anyway. Rural eastern Montana might be similar to Wyoming, but the western cities in MT are very “enlightened.” πŸ™‚


Karin February 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm

When it comes to allergies, Dallas-Ft.Worth area is one of the worst places! In fact, the name Dallas was a Native Indian word that meant “bad air”. DFW area is the testing grounds for all the allergy/asthma meds by the big pharma companies. I’ve notice my allergies are much less intense (but not gone!) since being on the GAPS for 7 months. We lived in Tucson prior and I did beautifully there and had no allergy issues, but it was terrible for my husband! Tucson used to be the place to go for allergies, but it is not so anymore as all the folks from the east brought their plants and it’s had an effect, according to doctors there. I think it really just all depends on what you are allergic to. I’m just happy to be back in TX, the state that I love the most! Eating healthy helps with all these different issues.


Brenda February 4, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Karin, very interesting! We ought to pay attention to what the Native Americans knew about this land! I read that Eugene (a town south of here) was called something like “the valley of the sick people” by Native Americans. Wow! Who would want to move there, with a title like that? πŸ™‚ A friend of mine is moving to Austin soon, it sounds like Texas is an awesome place to live (except for the allergies, of course!). I was in Dallas in November and got to spend a day touring some farms (after 3 days of being in a hotel at a conference!), and it was beautiful there!


Stinnalee June 4, 2013 at 6:55 am

Brenda, we moved to the Springfield/Eugene area about a year and half ago and have never felt better, so I’m not sure why it would be called the valley of the sick people. I was very ill from breathing all the wheat dust in the air when we moved here from Kansas. I have heard people complain of grass allergies here but since none of us suffer from those types of allergies and the weather is much better for going outdoors to exercise we feel great. I think maybe it just depends on what affects each individual person more than one area being bad or good for everyone.


Renee DeGroot February 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I’ve heard the water in Dallas is excellent, and high in minerals, and that more Miss America’s have come from there than any other place (it was attributed to the healthy water). Don’t know what it’s worth, but interesting.


Danielle February 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

This is pretty fascinating stuff! It’s interesting that 8 of the top 10 are in the West. I wonder what a comparison of the disease statistics would look like next to obesity stats by state? It seems like so often, just being obese makes you more vulnerable to all kinds of illness.

We moved from Colorado (#9 healthy) to Oregon (#19 unhealthy) a few months ago, and while we have WAY better access to real food here (because the milder climate encourages more diverse agriculture, especially pasture-based), there is much more obesity. Much of the obesity here seems related to poverty/economic depression/”doing things the way they’ve always been done,” even though the resources for healthy living are abundant, as are fresh air and outdoor activities! More of Colorado had the economic wealth for its citizens to care about things like healthy eating, instead of just trying to make it from one paycheck to the next.

We lived south of Chicago for 4 years, and I would NEVER want to move back there – organic is unheard of (or something for yuppies), the multiple factories make the air smell like chemicals day and night, and a “healthy vegetable dish” at a church potluck is generally corn casserole (with corn flakes on top). We heard rumors from locals about tritium content in the water from the nearby nuclear power plant leading to abnormally high cancer levels as well…or it might have just been from all the pesticide/chemical runoff from the conventional farmland. Eww!


Lisa C February 7, 2012 at 10:09 am

Interesting. I wonder what makes Oregon more disease-prone? (That’s where I live.) I know a fair amount of people smoke here, and other drug use may be higher (a lot of hippie-type people). But we have a lot of trees and are close to the ocean, so I would *think* our air was fairly clean. Lots of recreation areas for exercise…except people don’t like to get out in the cold and rain, and we have a lot of that, too. We have lots of real food options, but not everyone takes advantage of them. I think Oregon has some seriously good options for healthy lifestyles…but people have to be aware and actually choose them. I also wonder how much of a role vitamin D plays, since we get a lot of clouds here.


Michelle June 4, 2013 at 8:07 am

I live in Colorado, but have psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. So winters really are not awesome. Lucky for me, I’m moving back to Arkansas, where I can have more sun throughout the year! Glad they’re both on the “good” list πŸ™‚


Sherrie July 30, 2013 at 6:26 pm

So where is Kansas? On that list we neithor good or bad cause we always get miss on everything!


Tina Cochrane September 4, 2013 at 5:53 am

Where was North Dakota? I couldn’t find it!


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