15 States Where Retirees Are the Sickest

When you think about retirement, you likely have visions of relaxing on the beach and enjoying your escape from the rat race. However, it’s difficult to enjoy your retirement when you’re not feeling well. It’s important to eat a balanced diet, exercise, and get regular checkups, but one other factor that could determine your health is where you live.

Melody Goodman, an assistant professor of surgery at Washington University in St. Louis, told a Harvard School of Public Health audience, “Your zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code.” Factors, such as environmental toxins or a lack of access to quality health care, could mean the difference between living a healthy, happy retirement and suffering during what are supposed to be your golden years.

To identify the states with the unhealthiest seniors, we took a look at data by America’s Health Rankings. Researchers analyzed each state’s mental health, community and environment, policy, and clinical care. Here are 15 states where retirees are the sickest, according to America’s Health Rankings.

15. Illinois

Chicago Skyline

The state has an obesity problem. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Illinois performed poorly due to the high prevalence of obesity, the low percentage of quality nursing homes, and high percentage of low-care nursing home residents. (Low-care nursing home residents are those who might be able to live in less restrictive environments, such as their own home, if more services were available.)  In the past year, excessive drinking rose from 6.5% to 8% of adults 65 years and older. When it came to the health care quality, WalletHub ranked Illinois 19 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Poor nutrition and poverty are a problem in this state.

14. Wyoming

The sun hits the tips of the Grand Tetons

It is struggling with pain management. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Wyoming didn’t rank well due to low prescription drug coverage, low enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, and low prevalence of pain management. In the past year, poverty rose from 6.2% to 8% of adults age 65 and older. The overall poverty rate in Wyoming is 11.1%. When it came to health care quality, WalletHub ranked Wyoming 31 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Nursing home quality needs improvement in this state.

13. Texas

view of Texas capital building

It ranks low in health care. | iStock/Getty Images

Texas performed poorly due to the low percentage of quality nursing homes, the high prevalence of food insecurity, and the high prevalence of physical inactivity. When it comes to the health care quality, WalletHub ranked Texas 41 out of 51 (51 is worst). On the bright side, over the past two years, health screenings among seniors increased from 53.4% to 68.4%.

Next: Kidney disease is a big killer in this state.

12. Indiana

Indianapolis skyline

It has a high population of smokers. | iStock/Getty Images

Indiana performed poorly due to the high prevalence of smoking, the high prevalence of physical inactivity, and the high premature death rate. The average life expectancy in this state is 77.6 years. And Indiana has one of the highest rates of kidney disease deaths (2.3%) in the United States. When it came to the state’s health care quality, WalletHub ranked Indiana 30 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Seniors like to smoke in this state.

11. Nevada

The electricity poles on green shrubs with mountain backdrop in desert area

Hospice care is on the rise in Nevada. | Z-lex/iStock/Getty Images

Nevada received low scores due to the high prevalence of smoking, the low percentage of volunteerism, and the high percentage of ICU use. Since 2013, hospice care use rose from 39.7% to 50.1% of Medicare decedents who are age 65 and over. When it came to health care quality, WalletHub ranked Nevada 42 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Things aren’t so peachy in this state.

10. Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

It ranks low in quality nursing homes. | iStock/iStock/Getty Images

Georgia scored low when it came to the high hip fracture hospitalization rate, the low percentage of quality nursing homes, and the high prevalence of smoking. The state also misses the mark when it comes to life expectancy (77.2 years). In addition, over the past year, community support decreased 13% from $293 to $254 per senior adult in poverty. When it came to health care quality, WalletHub ranked Georgia 46 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Hospital policies need improvement in this state.

9. Missouri

The Indian Scout is known as a Kansas City landmark

There is a high percentage of low-care nursing homes. | tomofbluesprings/iStock/Getty Images

Missouri performed poorly due to the low percentage of health care-associated infection reporting policies, the high prevalence of smoking, and the high percentage of low-care nursing home residents. In the past two years, the number of low-care nursing home residents rose 15%. When it came to the health care quality, WalletHub ranked Missouri 37 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Most seniors report a low health status in this state.

8. Alabama

scene of downtown Huntsville, Alabama

The percentage of people who die from heart disease is high. | iStock/Getty Images

Alabama received a low score when it came to the high prevalence of smoking, the low prevalence of high health status, and life expectancy. The average life expectancy is 75.4 years, and the percentage of people who die from heart disease in this state tops the national average at 24.8%. In addition, since 2013, obesity among those 65 and older rose from 27.1% to 30.2%. When it came to the health care quality, Alabama was one of the worst states for health care, ranking 44 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: This state has a low percentage of able-bodied seniors.

7. Tennessee

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The state ranked 40th in health care. | Sean Pavone Photo/iStock/Getty Images

Tennessee received low scores when it came to the high prevalence of smoking, the low percentage of able-bodied seniors, and the high prevalence of physical inactivity. Since 2013, hospice care use rose from 30% to 45.7% of Medicare decedents age 65 and older. When it came to the worst states for health care, Tennessee ranked 40 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Seniors in this state die early.

6. West Virginia

charleston, west virginia

There aren’t many able-bodied seniors compared to other states. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

West Virginia received low scores when it came to the low percentage of able-bodied seniors, low percentage of quality nursing homes, and the high premature death rate. The average life expectancy in this state is 75.4 years. Death rates from lower respiratory diseases (7.1%) and diabetes (3.7%) are higher than the national averages of 5.6% and 2.9%, respectively. When it came to health care quality, WalletHub ranked West Virginia 38 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Seniors in this state tend to be obese.

5. Arkansas

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

There is a lot of physical inactivity in the state. | RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/iStock/Getty Images

Arkansas received low scores when it came to the high prevalence of smoking, the high prevalence of food insecurity, and the high prevalence of physical inactivity. In the past three years, obesity among residents age 65 and older rose from 25.9% to 29.8%. WalletHub recently named Arkansas one of the worst states for health care, ranking 48 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: This is the worst state for health care.  

4. Louisiana

Dusk falls over Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, 11 July 2006, almost one year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. For tourists strolling through the French Quarter it's easy to forget that Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans a year ago. The beignets are fresh, trinkets and designer clothes are artfully arranged in shop windows, and hurricanes are spinning in the bars on Bourbon Street. But while the music, food and good times have come back, the crowds have not and the city is struggling to make ends meet while its main industry remains crippled. With more than 10 million visitors a year, tourism was once a 5.5 billion dollar industry in New Orleans, accounting for 40 percent of the city's tax revenues and employing 85,000 people. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

It has a high percentage of seniors in poverty. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Louisiana received low scores when it came to the high percentage of obesity, the high prevalence of smoking, and the high prevalence of seniors in poverty. (The state’s overall poverty rate is 19.6%.) Since 2013, hospice care use rose from 37.3% to 55.4% of Medicare decedents age 65 and older. And WalletHub named Louisiana the worst state for health care.

Next: This state has a high number of nursing home residents.

3. Oklahoma

oklahoma city

The state has had the health status of its seniors drop by 10%. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Oklahoma received low scores when it came to the high prevalence of smoking, the high hip fracture hospitalization rate, and the high prevalence of low-care nursing home residents. During the past two years, high health status decreased from 35.7% to 32.3% of adults age 65 and over. When it came to health care quality, WalletHub ranked Oklahoma 39 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: Seniors in this state don’t get a lot of physical activity.

2. Kentucky

Kentucky Derby

The state has a high rate of hip fractures. | Elsa/Getty Images

Kentucky received low scores when it came to the high hip fracture hospitalization rate, the high prevalence of physical inactivity, and the high prevalence of smoking. Since 2013, smoking increased from 10.4% to 12.3% for adults age 65 and older. When it came to health care quality, WalletHub ranked Kentucky 36 out of 51 (51 is worst).

Next: This is the state where seniors are the sickest.

1. Mississippi

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

The state has many seniors in poverty. | Frank Kovalchek/Wikimedia Commons

Mississippi missed the mark when it came to the high prevalence of physical inactivity, the low prevalence of high health status, and the high percentage of seniors in poverty. (The state’s overall poverty rate is 22%.) Residents also have a low life expectancy (75 years). And WalletHub recently named Mississippi the second worst state for health care.

Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.

Follow The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!