Religiosity vs. health, state-by-state

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life has released the results of its latest survey aimed at determining the relative importance of religion in each of the 50 states, plus D.C. The importance of religion in people’s lives was one of four measures used to make this determination. Here are the results (I apologize for the formatting, but WordPress sucks and doesn’t support the OBJECT HTML tag, so I couldn’t embed the interactive chart on the Pew Forum site):

Now look at the 2009 United Health Foundation’s state-by-state ranking of overall health. (for methodology and more, see this page.) Pay attention to the right-hand column, which shows the states in rank order.

2009 OVERALL RANKINGS
ALPHABETICAL BY STATE RANK ORDER
2009 RANK

(1-50)

STATE SCORE* 2009 RANK

(1-50)

STATE SCORE*
48 Alabama -0.546 1 Vermont 1.064
34 Alaska -0.091 2 Utah 1.006
27 Arizona 0.082 3 Massachusetts 0.905
40 Arkansas -0.416 4 Hawaii 0.892
23 California 0.278 5 New Hampshire 0.886
8 Colorado 0.606 6 Minnesota 0.828
7 Connecticut 0.779 7 Connecticut 0.779
32 Delaware -0.082 8 Colorado 0.606
36 Florida -0.200 9 Maine 0.569
43 Georgia -0.469 10 Rhode Island 0.557
4 Hawaii 0.892 11 Washington 0.538
14 Idaho 0.524 12 Wisconsin 0.534
29 Illinois -0.056 13 Oregon 0.530
35 Indiana -0.188 14 Idaho 0.524
15 Iowa 0.503 15 Iowa 0.503
24 Kansas 0.245 16 Nebraska 0.475
41 Kentucky -0.434 17 North Dakota 0.421
47 Louisiana -0.530 18 New Jersey 0.414
9 Maine 0.569 19 Wyoming 0.343
21 Maryland 0.281 20 South Dakota 0.286
3 Massachusetts 0.905 21 Maryland 0.281
30 Michigan -0.063 21 Virginia 0.281
6 Minnesota 0.828 23 California 0.278
50 Mississippi -0.789 24 Kansas 0.245
38 Missouri -0.238 25 New York 0.203
26 Montana 0.192 26 Montana 0.192
16 Nebraska 0.475 27 Arizona 0.082
45 Nevada -0.482 28 Pennsylvania -0.031
5 New Hampshire 0.886 29 Illinois -0.056
18 New Jersey 0.414 30 Michigan -0.063
31 New Mexico -0.067 31 New Mexico -0.067
25 New York 0.203 32 Delaware -0.082
37 North Carolina -0.206 33 Ohio -0.084
17 North Dakota 0.421 34 Alaska -0.091
33 Ohio -0.084 35 Indiana -0.188
49 Oklahoma -0.566 36 Florida -0.200
13 Oregon 0.530 37 North Carolina -0.206
28 Pennsylvania -0.031 38 Missouri -0.238
10 Rhode Island 0.557 39 Texas -0.320
46 South Carolina -0.492 40 Arkansas -0.416
20 South Dakota 0.286 41 Kentucky -0.434
44 Tennessee -0.480 42 West Virginia -0.446
39 Texas -0.320 43 Georgia -0.469
2 Utah 1.006 44 Tennessee -0.480
1 Vermont 1.064 45 Nevada -0.482
21 Virginia 0.281 46 South Carolina -0.492
11 Washington 0.538 47 Louisiana -0.530
42 West Virginia -0.446 48 Alabama -0.546
12 Wisconsin 0.534 49 Oklahoma -0.566
19 Wyoming 0.343 50 Mississippi -0.789

*Scores presented in this table indicate the weighted number of standard deviations a state is above or below the national norm.

Ideally, I would have gotten rid of the left-hand column in the health rankings, run the right-hand one through an Excel spreadsheet so I could flip the order to put the least healthy states at the top, and put the religiosity rankings side-by-side with the resulting list. It’s not difficult in any case to see how eerily strong the inverse correlation between health and faith is, at least by these measures. Mississippi was found the be both the most religious and least healthy state, the diametric opposite of the situation in Vermont. God must hate churchgoers.

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  1. #1 by Russell on December 30, 2009 - 6:14 pm

    I’d like to see the correlation with education rankings.

  2. #2 by Gish on December 30, 2009 - 7:19 pm

    Hmm. It seems Utah bucks the trend by being 2nd in health and 12th in religiosity (2nd specifically in ‘church-going’). God must love Mormons?

  3. #3 by Edward on December 31, 2009 - 5:21 pm

    If you exclude the former confederate/slave states, then the correlation is greatly reduced. I would submit that the health care rankings are driven in part by continued inequalities and bigotry, particularly in the southern states. The religious right, as a political movement, was founded by bigots who were looking to religion to help them continue to have segregated schools, under the guise of religious schools. Today, many bigots continue to use religion to justify and reinforce their prejudice. But it is in no way the case that religious people oppose good health care. It’s that bigots hide their prejudice behind constitutionally protected religion and also oppose good access to healthcare for those they aim their prejudice against.

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