How healthy is your Michigan county? Use this map to find out.

Michigan's health

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.

Michigan Health Watch is made possible by generous financial support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Michigan Association of Health Plans, and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. The monthly mental health special report is made possible by generous financial support of the Ethel & James Flinn Foundation. Please visit the Michigan Health Watch 'About' page for more information.

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.

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Wed, 04/24/2019 - 9:06am

Thank you Bridge for taking on this complex issue. I have worked in healthcare for many years. I left the "healthcare system" many years ago to work in the area of "health promotion", and am happy that I did.

My experience has taught me that Michigan government is not capable of solving complex problems with a "bottom line", NO NEW TAXES mentality. The polarization and we/they mentality is crushing our ability to unravel this problem.

Simplistic thinking will no longer work. There are many people in this state who are okay with Michigan being in the bottom quarter of the country in all quality of life issues, but I am not. I will continue my work to promote health and I am hoping the new state administration will create a new vision for the future of MI.

John Hulett
Wed, 04/24/2019 - 11:53am

Thank you for bringing attention to this serious problem in our state and nation. I live in Ionia County and according the average lifespan I will be dead in 3.5 years. Last year I decided to take responsibility for my own health. I had high blood pressure, developed Diabetes 2 and weighed 272. I met a Health Coach who came free with my food program and since Nov 26, 2018, I have lost 66 lbs. I am 6 lbs from my goal of 200 lbs. My wife has lost 35 lbs. We just returned from 100+ days in Florida and will soon see our primary Dr. for blood work. I am curious to see how he will react to my weight loss and the impact on my blood world. My Urologist was blow away and he said he needs to lose 30 pounds. When I left he was researching the program. So I am planning to beat the odds in my Michigan county. I studying at 75 to be a Health Coach so I can help others avoid the danger beginning obese.

k l grenon
Wed, 04/24/2019 - 12:10pm

The legends don't match up with the key.