The United Health Foundation ranks Michigan 34th nationally among states in overall health that measure factors like smoking, access to care and life expectancy. But differences within the state are profound. Many urban areas and those in northern Michigan, for instance, have far lower life expectancy rates than suburban areas. Click on a county to see how it compares to the state average in health factors, behaviors and outcomes.
In Clare County, residents struggle with their weight and smoking. More than a third of adults are obese and a fifth regularly use tobacco.
The county shares a border with Midland County, whose residents smoke far less, exercise more and live longer. Life expectancy is 81 years in Midland, almost six years longer than Clare County.
Michigan is in the bottom-third for overall health nationwide, but differences within the state also are profound.
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In affluent places like Ann Arbor and Leelanau County, residents live longer, healthier lives that counterparts in cities and rural communities. But not all rural areas are in poor health: Life expectancy in much of the Upper Peninsula, for instance, exceeds state averages.
The difference, in many cases: education.
About 72 percent of Midland County adults have attended some college, above the statewide average of 67 percent. In Clare County, just 54 percent had, one of the lowest rates in the state.
Michigan’s life expectancy is 78.1 years, and counties that exceed that average are spread throughout the state, from Oakland, Livingston and Washtenaw counties in southeast Michigan to Clinton County in the central part of the state; Ottawa County out west; and several in the northern Lower Peninsula and eastern Upper Peninsula.
There are some common threads: most of those counties have residents who are more physically active, smoke less and have lower prevalence of obesity. But others point to the differences even within counties.
In Antrim County northwest of Grand Traverse, where residents can expect to become octogenarians, there are two populations: The wealthy who have moved to retire to Lake Michigan and Torch Lake, and longtime, native residents.
Dr. Andrea Wendling, a family practice doctor in nearby Boyne City and director of Michigan State University’s Rural Health Curriculum, said they have different behaviors, and outcomes: the long-time, less educated population struggles with health much like their peers across the state.
Finding a concrete pattern that could lead to a simple solution to extending lives is difficult, Wendling said. While adding more doctors might work in Clare, the solution in Flint or Detroit is far more complicated – residents in those cities have access to nearby hospitals, but for reasons of poverty, violence and other factors they too tend to have poor health outcomes.
“The fundamental health issues are the same (across the state),” Wendling said. “The trouble is the challenges to meet those issues are different.”
Use this map to see how counties differ in a host of health factors, from their health-related behaviors, to access to care to outcomes like diabetes and premature death.