How Many Adults in Each State Engage in All 5 Key Health Habits?

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Just 6 percent of adults in the U.S. have adopted all five key health habits that are linked with better health or longer life, according to a new report.

But adults in some states are far healthier than others: The states with the highest percentages of people who engage in all five habits are Utah (with 11.3 percent), Hawaii (9.2 percent) and Oregon (9 percent), according to the report published today (May 26) in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The five health habits the researchers looked at were: maintaining a healthy body weight (with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9), getting at least 7 hours of sleep, exercising (150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of intense exercise weekly), drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all, and not smoking. For the report, the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the data from nearly 400,000 U.S. adults ages 21 and older who participated in a national survey.

"This is the first time in 30 years that a comprehensive look at these five healthy behaviors has been undertaken," said Dr. Wayne Giles, a chronic disease prevention researcher at the CDC and a co-author of the report.  "What we found is that the vast majority of adults engage in three to four of these behaviors, however, only 6 percent engage in all [five]," Giles told Live Science in an email. [Jump to infographic: 5 Key Health Habits in US Adults: Full List of States]

Nationally, 24 percent of adults engage in four of the habits, and 35.2 percent are engaging in three, according to the report.

The states with the lowest percentages of people doing all five behaviors are Arkansas, North Dakota (both with 4.2 percent), Tennessee and Mississippi (both with 4.3 percent), according to the report.

"The geographic data are a particularly intriguing finding from this study, and illustrate that where you live can have a huge impact on whether or not people engage in these behaviors," Giles said.

The report is rooted in an influential 1982 study of the residents of Alameda County, California, the researchers said. That study revealed that these five behaviors were key to preventing chronic disease and reducing early mortality, according to the new report.

Since then, most studies that have attempted to find the percentage of Americans who do all five of these behaviors have lacked data on the percentage of people who get at least 7 hours of sleep, the researchers wrote in their report. Before 2015, there was no formal government recommendation for how much sleep adults should get, they noted.

But it's important to look at these behaviors all together, and see how many people are doing most or all of five them, the researchers wrote. [9 Healthy Habits You Can Do in 1 Minute (Or Less)]

"These behaviors tend to reinforce each other," Giles said. "For example, some people tend to smoke when they drink, and we know that physical activity can be important in helping people obtain adequate sleep, and inadequate sleep, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol are all related to obesity," he said.  

Only 1.4 percent of respondents reported that they engaged in none of the five behaviors, the report found. The number was highest in Pennsylvania (2.5 percent), and Arkansas, Idaho and Ohio (all with 2.3 percent). The number was lowest in Utah (0.7 percent), and Vermont and Arizona (both with 0.8 percent).

The five behaviors are probably not equal in their health consequences, the researchers wrote in their report. "In terms of health consequences, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths," Giles said. Tobacco use causes more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, he said. Obesity is related to slightly more than 100,000 deaths, he added.

For the report, the researchers considered moderate drinking to mean no more than two drinks per day for men, and no more than one per drink for women, with no binge drinking (five or more drinks on one occasion for men, or four or more for women), and no heavy drinking (15 or more drinks during one week for men, or eight or more in one week for women). [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]

"This study demonstrates a higher percentage of five health-related behaviors in the Pacific and Rocky Mountain states than in Southern states," the researchers wrote. The researchers noted that the Southern states, along with the states that border the Ohio River (including West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio), have higher rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.

The researchers noted that their study was limited because it relied on self-reporting, and that the rates of people who responded to the survey from some states were lower than others.

(Image credit: Alan Eilander/Live Science)

Originally published on Live Science.

Karen Rowan
Health Editor
Karen came to LiveScience in 2010, after writing for Discover and Popular Mechanics magazines, and working as a correspondent for the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. She holds an M.S. degree in science and medical journalism from Boston University, as well as an M.S. in cellular biology from Northeastern Illinois University. Prior to becoming a journalist, Karen taught science at Adlai E. Stevenson High School, in Lincolnshire, Ill. for eight years.