Minnesota is fifth-healthiest state, according to America's Health Rankings

'Sota ranks toward the top when it comes to residents maintaining an active lifestyle.
'Sota ranks toward the top when it comes to residents maintaining an active lifestyle.

According to a new study, Minnesota is far and away the healthiest state in the Midwest and the fifth-healthiest in the country -- but that's not to say there isn't room for improvement.

-- Minnesota is the least miserable state, according to Bloomberg
-- Minnesota is the state of the future, Gallup says
-- Minnesota less religious than 30 years ago, but still one of the most religious states

The United Health Foundation-sponsored study praises residents of the Land of 10,000 Lakes for our active lifestyles and low rates of premature death and death from cardiovascular disease, but dings us for our high incidences of infectious disease, low per-capita public health funding, and finally, a high prevalence of binge drinking, of all things.

In fact, though the study doesn't provide specifics, the United Health Foundation surprisingly ranks us dead last of all states when it comes to rates of infectious disease. Minnesota ranks 44th in binge drinking and 48th in terms of public health funding, which according to the study has declined from $62 to $43 per person over the last half-decade.

On the other end of the spectrum, Minnesota ranks third in high school graduation rate, second in occupational fatality rate, fourth from the top in percentage of residents who have health insurance, third in diabetes rate, and first overall in "poor physical health days."

Put it all together, and from last year to this year Minnesota nudged up one spot from  sixth- to fifth-healthiest state.

A USA Today summary of the study casts its national implications in grim terms:

The 2012 America's Health Rankings highlight troubling levels of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and sedentary behavior. Medical advances are allowing more people to live with those conditions.

The bottom line: Americans "are living longer, sicker" with more chronic illness, says Reed Tuckson of the United Health Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation that sponsors the report with the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention...

"There's no way that this country can possibly afford the medical care costs and consequences of these preventable chronic illnesses," says Tuckson. "We have two freight trains headed directly into each other unless we take action now."

"People have to be successful at taking accountability for their own health-related decisions."

From first to fourth, the healthiest states are Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. From 46th to 50th, the five unhealthiest states are South Carolina, West Virginia, and Arkansas, with Louisiana and Mississippi tied for last-place honors.

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