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How We Picked the Healthiest Cities in America

Working with consultant Bert Sperling of Sperling's BestPlaces (, we mined reams of data to find the healthiest cities in America. How did we do it?

First, we came up with a list of almost 30 criteria, which included not just the physical characteristics of a metropolitan area, but also the actual health of the people who live there. Here's what we looked at:

  • Life expectancy
  • Physicians per capita
  • General practitioners per capita
  • Cardiologists per capita
  • Oncologists per capita
  • Percentage of population that smokes
  • Stress index (including divorce rate, suicide rate, and rates of depression)
  • Percentage of population that has health plans
  • Percentage of population that has trouble affording health care
  • Percentage getting regular checkups
  • Existence of smoke-free legislation (smoke-free office buildings, restaurants, bars)
  • Healthy eating score (how many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains did average resident consume)
  • Number of alcoholic drinks per month
  • Percentage getting regular exercise
  • Percentage who commute by biking or by walking
  • Percentage who say they get enough emotional support
  • Percentage satisfied with life
  • Teaching hospitals per capita
  • Hospital beds per capita
  • Overall mortality
  • Mortality rates of heart disease
  • Mortality rates of cancer
  • Rates of diabetes
  • Rates of hypertension
  • Rates of high cholesterol
  • Obesity rates (average BMI)
  • Fast-food outlets per capita


Of 324 metropolitan areas we surveyed, about 20 rose to the top. We then looked further at these 20—taking into account clean air and water, median housing prices, populations (we wanted a mix of big and small cities), hiking and biking trails, and, yes, weather—to determine our top 10.

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