Wednesday, April 12, 2000

State of the states

A few weeks ago, we reported on the World Health Organization findings that, although American teenagers are trying valiantly to have world-class bad habits, they lag behind other nations in such categories as smoking, drinking, and eating french fries. Now comes a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that analyzes the bad habits of grown-ups, pitting the 50 states (plus Puerto Rico) against one another for best- and worst-behaved honors.

Because the survey was conducted to determine the success of prevention-promoting programs, and not just to please people with Web sites who like to make fun of surveys, the questions included everything from seat-belt use to health screenings. Did your home state make the finals? Take a look:
Wisconsin had the most drinkers per capita, and the most drinkers who admit to downing five or more drinks in one sitting. Maryland had the lowest number of five-at-a-timers, but Puerto Rico had the fewest total drinkers. Utah also, predictably enough, rated low for liquor, and perhaps as a result, the state's residents also called themselves the most physically active.

Least physically active? Those would be Georgia residents, more than half of whom described themselves as sedentary. That doesn't stop Georgian women from looking after their health in other ways, though--they were the most likely to have had a Pap test within the previous year. Women in Puerto Rico got tested the least. In other health-screening results, Maine residents were the most conscientious in getting colorectal cancer screenings; folks in Mississippi were the most avoidant.

Though one would hardly say that California has the safest roads, it did have the safest riders: more people buckle up there than anywhere. Health insurance may become an issue for Texas Governor George W. Bush--his state had the highest percentage of uninsured residents. Hawaii had the highest percentage of policy holders.

Then there's Colorado, where residents either have the best self-image, the highest self-esteem, or the most inclination to lie on surveys: Less than 12 percent said they would call themselves obese, giving their state the sveltest figure in all the land. How do they do it without being the most physically active? Must be that thin, thin air.

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