Smoking, excessive drinking are key to low health ranking

Morrison County made some improvement in the county-by-county health rankings released last week. That’s the good news.

The bad news is we still rank only 78th out of the 85 Minnesota counties ranked. (The state has 87 counties.)

The rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Minnesota Population Health Institute are a work in progress. They are not yet comprehensive, but they still are supplying benchmarks where none existed before.

Dig down deep into the data, in fact, and two things can be learned about Morrison County. The primary reasons that our county has a low ranking is because too many of us smoke and too many of us drink to excess.

In the rankings for other healthy behaviors, the county did not rank particularly well, but it was the smoking and drinking that jumped out.

As we said, the rankings are not yet comprehensive, and 23 Minnesota counties were not ranked on smoking. Nevertheless, Only five counties have a higher rate of smokers than Morrison County.

In the same way, 36 Minnesota counties were not ranked for excessive drinking, but of the 51 who were, only four counties had higher rates than Morrison.

In the other health behaviors, with first being best, the county ranked 54th for adult obesity, 40th for physical inactivity, 64th for motor vehicle crash death rate, 22nd for sexually transmitted infections, and 50th for teen birth rate.

Morrison County residents suffer 3.4 poor physical health days a year on average, 62nd best of the 81 counties ranked. Residents also average 4.5 poor mental health days each year; only six of the 80 counties ranked fare worse.

In his ground-breaking book “Blue Zones,” author Dan Buettner outlined the factors that will lead to a longer, healthier life. Among them are eating properly, getting sufficient exercise and having a network of friends.

Since we agree with Buettner, we encourage readers to adopt those lifestyles that lead to a healthier, and thus happier, life.

And we encourage those who have trouble controlling their tobacco and alcohol use to get help. You can improve your chances for a happier, more fulfilling life, just by adopting a healthier lifestyle.