Arkansas is again near the bottom of all states in the latest America’s Health Rankings report, released Dec. 6. The state’s ranking remains unchanged from last year’s report as the 48th healthiest state in the nation. Arkansas’s highest-ever ranking was 40th, assigned in the 1993 and 2009 reports, and its lowest was 49th in the 2013 and 2014 reports.
Arkansas is ranked below the national average on 38 out of 51 scoring measures. Many of these measures have remained unchanged or worsened from the previous annual report. The graphic below shows some of the measures that have worsened in this year’s report.
Many health measures are unchanged from previous reports, indicating continuing challenges for the state. Arkansas continues to be among the worst ranked states for teen birth rates (49th), smoking rates (48th), annual dental visits (50th), obesity rates (44th), and frequent physical and mental distress (47th).
Despite low rankings in many categories, Arkansas scored higher than the national average on 10 measures and saw some improved values and rankings, including those shown in the graphic below.
Northeastern states New Hampshire (1st), Massachusetts (2nd), and Vermont (3rd) rank as the healthiest states in the U.S., while Southern states Louisiana (50th), Mississippi (49th), and Arkansas (48th) rank among states with the most opportunity for improvement.
The report highlights the COVID-19 pandemic’s role in exacerbating existing issues and creating new ones. Rates of premature deaths (measured in years of potential life lost before age 75) increased nationally, and over 30% of Black and Hispanic adults reported having lost a close family member or friend to COVID-19, as opposed to 19% of white adults. Although Arkansas’s ranking for premature deaths improved slightly from 44th in 2021 to 43rd in 2022, the state, like the nation, saw an increase in the number of these deaths, with Arkansas recording an additional 1,749 premature deaths per 100,000 people in 2022 compared to 2021.
The report also features metrics for social determinants of health, or environmental conditions that influence an individual’s health status. In Arkansas, many of these metrics fell below or close to the national average, as shown in the graphic below.
The United Health Foundation, in partnership with the American Public Health Association, releases the America’s Health Rankings report annually. The report analyzes 80 health measures from 29 national and state-level data sources to identify current or emerging public health successes and challenges. This year’s report focuses on five determinants of health categories – social and economic factors, physical environment, clinical care, behaviors, and health outcomes – to offer a fuller portfolio of all areas of health and wellness within each state. New to this report is the inclusion of findings from the COVID-era Disparities Survey and additional COVID-19 measures, including national COVID-19 vaccination and death rates by racial subpopulation.