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The unhealthiest county in Utah?

Sun Advocate associate editor

The odds of dying before one"s time - before age 75 - are higher in Carbon County than they are in Morgan County, and people here report feeling in poor health more than four times as often as in Utah"s 'healthiest"county, Morgan.

Those figures come from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Last week, they released a nationwide survey of health statistics gathered on a county-by-county basis.

The study showed that in terms of premature death, Carbon ranked 25th out of 26 counties included in the study, with 10,224 years of potential life lost per 100,000 population. Morgan was at 3,275. (These are rates, not actual head counts.)

As for morbidity - disease or poor health in general - 20 percent of Carbon residents reported being in poor or fair health, while only 5 percent of Morgan people in the survey said they didn"t feel all that healthy. Statewide the percentage is 13 percent.

In looking at some health behaviors, the study found that the smoking in rate in Carbon is 22 percent of adults. That"s twice the state level and almost four times the reported level in Morgan of 6 percent.

Carbon residents are as obese as the rest of the state, with 26 percent of those surveyed being overweight compared with 24 percent statewide. Excessive drinking in Carbon among adults is 11 percent, compared with 10 percent reported at the state level. Carbon is a model of moderation here. Summit County has a statistical heavy drinking rate of 19 percent. Summit is ranked number four among the counties for overall health.

Clinical care was another factor in the study. It shows that high-ranking Summit has one primary care provider for every 635 residents. In Carbon, the ratio is less than half that: 1,307 residents for every primary care provider. Statewide it"s one for every 1,072.

The study also includes economic data in its research. Unemployment stands at 7.1 percent in Carbon County, compared 5.8 percent in Morgan and 6.6 percent across Utah.

Children living in poverty are estimated to be 16 percent here. That"s twice the level reported reported for Summit County and a little more than three times the rate of 5 percent in Morgan.

The incidence of low birthweight babies is 9.7 percent in Carbon County. The statewide ratio is 6.7 percent.

There is a statistic not included in the study"s data, but available from the U.S. Census Bureau. That is the median household income.

The bureau has estimated that the midpoint in household income in Carbon County for 2008 was $45,621. Statewide the median income was more than $10,000 higher, or $56,820.

Morgan County"s was $67,768. Summit County"s was $79,698. There appears to be a correlation between health, longevity and income.

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