Earlier this year, the annual United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings: Senior Report, took a close look at the specific metrics by which seniors’ health is improving and worsening in each state. New Jersey dropped two spots this year, ranking 26th.
When asked by the Newark Star-Ledger what traits or behaviors are pulling down the overall health of seniors in New Jersey, Anju Sikka, regional medical director for UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey said, “Too many of them are underweight. The state ranks 43rd-worst nationwide for having citizens who are underweight. Being underweight usually signals being malnourished, and that impacts the ability to bounce back from all sorts of other illnesses.
While the high prevalence of being underweight is certainly a challenge for New Jersey seniors, there were some health strengths highlighted in the report. For example:
- Low prevalence of chronic drinking: Only 2.9 percent of adults aged 65 and older in New Jersey report chronic drinking, defined as consuming more than 30 drinks in the last 30 days for women and 60 drinks in the last 30 days for men.
- Low geriatrician shortfall: With an aging baby boomer population, the number of geriatricians needed is growing dramatically. The shortfall of geriatricians in New Jersey is 52.4 percent of the minimum number needed, the ninth lowest shortfall among the states.
- Low prevalence of falls: Falls and injuries can impair quality of life by limiting mobility for older adults, which can contribute to social isolation and premature death. In New Jersey, 22.3 percent of adults aged 65 and older report falling in the last 12 months, the fifth lowest rate in the nation.