Adults Behaving Badly: Health Behaviors Across the USA

I recently got my hands on data from the 500 Cities Project, a research project that collected tons of public health data from cities across the United States.

Figure taken from the 500 Cities Project website:

I love visualizing data with maps, so I figured I’d aggregate some of this information by state and share it here!

First, let’s take a look at the CDC’s five deadly sins: binge drinking, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, and insufficient sleep. See if you’re guilty of any:

Binge drinking: Have you had five or more drinks (men) or four or more drinks (women) on an occasion in the past 30 days?

Smoking: Have you smoked ≥100 cigarettes in your lifetime and currently smoke every day or some days?

Physical inactivity: During the past month, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?

Obesity: Do you have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30.0 kg/m² (excluding pregnant women)?

Insufficient sleep: Do you usually get insufficient sleep (less than 7 hours a night)?

Each city had a prevalence value for these five behaviors, representing the proportion of people who responded “yes” to each one.

To get a single value for each state, I averaged the five percentages within each city and then took the median from among all cities in the same state. So who’s leading the least healthy lifestyle?

Your body is a temple? People in Utah, Maine, and Vermont avoid vice, while Mississippi, New Jersey, and Delaware are drowning in booze and cigarettes.

It probably shouldn’t surprise you that Utah leads the nation in clean living.

“Alcohol? You mean the Devil’s juice?”

But is all that abstinence worth it? Let’s see how health outcomes stack up by state. I averaged the prevalence of arthritis, asthma, high blood pressure, cancer, high cholesterol, kidney disease, pulmonary disease, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and losing all your teeth. Combining the rates for each of these health problems gives us a single value for each state state that represents how healthy, overall, its citizens are.

Colorado, Idaho, and Minnesota are the healthiest. Ohio, Maryland, and Delaware are the least healthy.

Colorado strikes back! Colorado (6.6%), Minnesota (6.7%), and Idaho (6.9%) have the fewest health problems, while Ohio (11.5%), Maryland (11.2%) and Delaware (11.0%) have the most.

Looking at the two maps, it’s clear that living an unhealthy lifestyle is related to having poor health, but it’s not a one-to-one relationship. Plotting the two variables together in the same graph should shed some light on their relationship.

The color of each state corresponds to its prevalence of poor health outcomes (the y-axis).

It looks like behaving badly doesn’t necessarily translate into poor health. Even though Mississippi leads the nation in poor health behaviors, they actually aren’t the least healthy. That honor goes to Ohio! What city in Ohio, you ask?


It was close, but Cleveland!

Sorry, Lebron.

Thanks for reading!

Want more data visualization? Check out my other posts at:


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