Location matters when it comes to health. Some places promote wellness by expanding access to nutritious food and recreational facilities. Others strive to keep healthcare costs affordable for everyone or keep parks clean and well-maintained. Of course, the most pressing health issue in the past year has been the COVID-19 pandemic, and how well a city handles it can have a huge impact on the wellness of its residents, both physically and mentally.
When a city doesn’t take care of these many important issues, it can be hard to keep up good health. After all, the cost of care in the U.S. is rising and life expectancy has taken a huge hit during the pandemic. Plus, there are so many sources of health advice online that it can be difficult for a person to figure out what is legitimate and what is just a fad.
To determine which areas prioritize residents’ well-being, WalletHub compared more than 180 of the most populated U.S. cities across 44 key indicators of good health. Our data set ranges from the cost of a medical visit to fruit and vegetable consumption to COVID-19 cases.
Healthiest Places to Live in the U.S.
|1||San Francisco, CA||69.11||10||1||59||1|
|4||San Diego, CA||62.88||26||4||11||9|
|11||South Burlington, VT||58.54||1||10||88||137|
|13||Huntington Beach, CA||57.92||21||44||4||18|
|16||Salt Lake City, UT||57.29||72||20||2||36|
|21||San Jose, CA||55.19||13||16||38||56|
|23||Santa Rosa, CA||54.68||41||63||12||26|
|24||Virginia Beach, VA||54.60||7||48||43||34|
|25||New York, NY||54.42||98||2||142||14|
|29||Los Angeles, CA||53.61||118||9||56||35|
|31||Santa Clarita, CA||53.28||59||84||36||6|
|32||Fort Lauderdale, FL||53.25||73||43||10||43|
|40||Long Beach, CA||52.11||97||36||31||27|
|54||Colorado Springs, CO||49.21||88||88||9||60|
|56||St. Paul, MN||49.05||51||66||89||37|
|57||Las Vegas, NV||48.93||162||25||29||65|
|59||Grand Rapids, MI||48.79||49||70||69||66|
|62||Overland Park, KS||48.21||18||94||72||120|
|65||Pearl City, HI||47.66||5||112||97||162|
|67||St. Louis, MO||47.55||103||46||74||57|
|74||Chula Vista, CA||47.07||32||78||39||132|
|76||Garden Grove, CA||47.05||50||60||109||83|
|77||Rancho Cucamonga, CA||46.95||105||145||34||23|
|79||St. Petersburg, FL||46.84||81||79||65||63|
|83||Pembroke Pines, FL||46.27||56||100||49||146|
|85||Sioux Falls, SD||46.08||93||73||67||101|
|91||Jersey City, NJ||44.77||100||31||125||96|
|92||Santa Ana, CA||44.76||85||57||105||86|
|94||New Haven, CT||44.59||89||111||133||39|
|97||Des Moines, IA||43.78||38||136||79||103|
|108||West Valley City, UT||42.81||128||59||92||165|
|109||Newport News, VA||42.65||27||129||149||98|
|117||Cedar Rapids, IA||42.11||40||132||127||125|
|118||San Antonio, TX||42.06||104||95||120||95|
|122||Kansas City, MO||41.62||53||117||144||107|
|125||Rapid City, SD||41.33||101||107||156||116|
|126||New Orleans, LA||41.07||166||130||147||29|
|127||Fort Worth, TX||40.92||116||120||78||153|
|129||Cape Coral, FL||40.79||102||135||93||160|
|132||Port St. Lucie, FL||40.18||146||109||86||176|
|135||Little Rock, AR||39.77||83||139||140||114|
|137||El Paso, TX||39.50||173||110||101||110|
|141||Oklahoma City, OK||38.63||84||148||134||126|
|153||Fort Wayne, IN||36.76||145||137||121||161|
|155||Grand Prairie, TX||36.55||119||149||169||131|
|158||Moreno Valley, CA||36.22||153||153||164||118|
|160||San Bernardino, CA||35.81||177||154||143||106|
|164||Las Cruces, NM||35.01||127||177||130||174|
|166||North Las Vegas, NV||34.62||175||160||173||79|
|168||Baton Rouge, LA||34.16||152||167||160||144|
|169||Corpus Christi, TX||34.11||169||155||159||152|
|176||Fort Smith, AR||31.02||172||161||177||168|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that city, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
Ask the Experts
With health care still a hot issue, we asked a panel of experts to weigh in on how to build good personal health. Click on the experts’ profiles below to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:
- What does the decision to shut down Haven — the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan healthcare venture — reveal about the difficulties to change the U.S. health-care market?
- What are the most important factors to consider in choosing a city that is good for your health?
- Since health and wealth are both long-term investments, what are some effective strategies for convincing people to invest more in their health today?
- What tips do you have for a person looking to live a healthier lifestyle while on a budget?
- What measures can local authorities undertake in order to improve local health-care systems?
- Data indicates that the stress of living in a global pandemic has disrupted the healthy routines of the general population (from gaining weight and working out less to an increase in alcohol consumption). What advice do you have for people trying to rebuild their healthy habits?
Ask the Experts
In order to identify the overall healthiest cities in the U.S., WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across four key dimensions: 1) Health Care, 2) Food, 3) Fitness and 4) Green Space. Our sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.
We evaluated the four dimensions using 44 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for a healthy lifestyle. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available at the state level only. For metrics marked with two asterisks (**), we calculated the population size using the square root of the population in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
We then determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Health Care – Total Points: 25
- Premature-Death Rate: Triple Weight (~3.26 Points)
Note: “Premature Death” refers to years of potential life lost.
- Mental Health: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults reporting 14 or more mentally unhealthy days in the past month.
- Mental-Health Counselors per Capita: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
Note: Mental-Health Counselors refers to Mental Health Counselors and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers.
- Physical Health: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults reporting 14 or more physically unhealthy days in the past month.
- Family Doctors per Capita: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
- Dentists per Capita: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
- Cost of Medical Visit: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
- Cost of Dental Visit: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
- Cost of Basic Medicine: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
Note:This metric refers to cold medicine for 6 days (Tylenol, Frenadol, Coldrex or equivalent brands).
- Quality of Public Hospital System: Full* Weight (~1.09 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ ranking of public hospital systems.
- Average COVID-19 Cases per Capita: Double Weight (~2.17 Points)
- Average COVID-19 Deaths per Capita: Double Weight (~2.17 Points)
- Hospital Beds per Capita: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
- Adult Health-Insurance Coverage: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults ages 19 to 64 with health insurance coverage.
- Youth Health-Insurance Coverage: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of youths ages 18 and younger with health insurance coverage.
- Share of Adults Who Visited a Doctor or a Dentist in the Past Year: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
- Share of Adults Who Checked their Cholesterol in the Past 5 Years: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
- Mammography Screenings Among Women Ages 50–74: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
- Share of Women & Men Ages 65 and Older Who Received Core Preventive Services: Full Weight (~1.09 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of women aged 65 and older who report having received all of the following: an influenza vaccination in the past year; a pneumococcal vaccination (PPV) ever; either a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) within the past year, a sigmoidoscopy within the past 5 years and a FOBT within the past 3 years, or a colonoscopy within the previous 10 years; and a mammogram in the past 2 years and men aged 65 and older who report having received all of the following: an influenza vaccination in the past year; a PPV ever; and either a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) within the past year, a sigmoidoscopy within the past 5 years and a FOBT within the past 3 years, or a colonoscopy within the past 10 years.
Food – Total Points: 25
- Inadequate Fruit & Vegetable Consumption: Double Weight (~5.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults consuming fewer than one serving of fruits or vegetables per day.
- Farmer's Markets per Capita**: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Gourmet Specialty-Food Stores per Capita**: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Healthy Restaurants per Capita**: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: “Healthy Restaurants” refers to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free establishments.
- Dietitians & Nutritionists per Capita: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Share of Residents Who Say They Eat Healthy: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric is based on Gallup and Sharecare's 2016 Community Rankings for Healthy Eating report which examines healthy eating across the nation.
- Google Search Interest for “Healthy Eating”: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the search interest for “healthy food near me”, “healthy dinner ideas,” “healthy snacks,” “health food stores,” “healthy recipes,” “healthy grocery list.”
- Share of Obese Residents: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Limited Access to Healthy Foods: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of the population who earn a low income and do not live within a reasonable distance to a grocery store.
Fitness – Total Points: 25
- Share of Adults Who Engage in Any Physical Activity: Double Weight (~7.14 Points)
- Well-Being “Physical” Rank: Full Weight (~3.57Points)
Note: This metric refers to the city’s rank in the “Physical” section of the Gallup-Sharecare State of American Well-Being rankings. “Physical” refers to having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.
- Fitness & Instruction Centers per Capita**: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Average Cost of Fitness-Club Membership: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Weight-Loss Centers per Capita**: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Fitness Trainers & Aerobics Instructors per Capita: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
Green Space – Total Points: 25
- Parkland Acres per Capita**: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Quality of Parks: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures “parks spending per capita” as a proxy for “parks quality.”
- Hiking Trails per Capita**: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Running Trails per Capita**: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Walking Trails per Capita**: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Walk Score: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Bike Score: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Physical-Activity Access: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of the population with adequate access to locations for engaging in physical activity.
- City “Greenness”: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s "Greenest Cities in America" ranking that encompasses environmental metrics like air quality or “green” transportation.
- Recreation Access: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s "Best & Worst Cities for Recreation" ranking.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, County Health Rankings, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Yelp, Numbeo, Gallup-Sharecare, Google Ads, The Trust for Public Land, Under Armour, Expatistan, Walk Score, the New York Times and WalletHub research.