Reaching America's Health Potential

A State-by-State Look at Adult Health

This chartbook, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Build a Healthier America, provides state and national data on self-reported adult health status. These data illustrate a consistent and striking pattern of incremental improvements in health with increasing levels of educational attainment: As levels of education rise, health improves.

This report also compares the current state of adult health in the United States to a national benchmark—a level of good health that should be achievable for all Americans. This national adult health benchmark is set at the lowest rate of less than very good health observed in any state among the most educated adults who also practiced healthy behaviors.

The findings reveal substantial shortfalls in the health of American adults at the national level and in every state.

  • In the United States overall during 2005–2007, 45.2 percent of adults ages 25 to 74 reported being in less than very good health. This percentage varied across states from 34.7 percent in Vermont to 52.9 percent in Mississippi.
  • Nationally and in every state, the percent of adults in less than very good health varied by level of education.
  • While the gap in adult health status by education was evident in every state, the size of this gap varied across states—from a difference of 9.0 percentage points in Delaware to 19.9 percentage points in California.
  • Health status among adults also varied across racial or ethnic groups. Nationally and in nearly every state, the percent of adults in less than very good health was lower among non-Hispanic whites than in all other groups.
  • In nearly every state, rates of less than very good health among adults at every education level and in every racial or ethnic group exceeded the national benchmark of 19.0 percent—a level of health that should be attainable for all adults nationally and in every state.