SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's senior citizens are among the healthiest in the nation.
According to the inaugural edition of United Health Foundation's America's Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities, Utah is ranked ninth for senior health.
Some reasons the state's seniors are healthy include the fact that Utah has the lowest prevalence of smoking in the U.S., the lowest rate of hospital readmissions and ranks second nationwide for preventable hospitalizations, according to the report.
The state also has a low percentage of seniors living in poverty.
On the downside, Utah ranks 44th for pain management (in particular, activity that limits arthritis pain), 45th for highly rated nursing homes and 46th for home health care worker availability.
Dr. Robert Beauchamp, medical director for United Healthcare in Utah, said the report is a highly valuable tool in gaining a greater understanding of the health challenges Utah's seniors face.
"Utah's growing senior population points to the urgency of identifying key opportunities for improving senior health and pursuing effective solutions at the national, state, community and family levels," he said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, older Americans are experiencing troubling rates of chronic health conditions.
About 80 percent of all seniors are living with at least one chronic health condition, and 50 percent have two or more chronic health conditions.
In addition, the report found more than 25 percent of seniors nationwide are obese.
"Chronic illness is unnecessarily high among seniors," said Dr. Rhonda Randall, senior adviser to the United Health Foundation and chief medical officer of United Healthcare Medicare and Retirement.
"The coordination of care for seniors, particularly the 50 percent of the population with multiple chronic illnesses, is complex and increases pressure on our country's caregivers and our health care system."
In 2011, the first of more than 70 million baby boomers turned 65, according to the report. This marked the beginning of a tremendous demographic shift in the U.S. population.
In addition, those ages 65 and older are the largest consumers of health care.
Americans are living longer but sicker lives, and the senior population is poised to grow more than 50 percent between 2015 and 2030, the report states.
This will make senior health a timely and critical national issue.
Among all 50 states, Minnesota leads the nation for senior health, followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa.
Ranking in last place is Mississippi, preceded by Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas.
To see the complete report, go to americashealthrankings.org.