Mecklenburg is one of the healthiest counties in North Carolina, but some negative health factors are on the rise, a new national study found. The rankings, put together by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, are based on “more than 90 health-influencing factors such as housing, education, jobs and access to quality health care.”
Mecklenburg County finished sixth in the 2023 rankings out of 100 counties across North Carolina. Despite the high overall result, the study found the Charlotte area is outpacing the state in some negative categories, such as alcohol-related issues and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
STIs, drunk driving crashes above state and national levels
From 2016 to 2020, “35 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths involved alcohol” in Mecklenburg County, according to the study. That’s higher than the statewide percentage, 26 percent, and national percentage, 27 percent, for the same time period.
Mecklenburg County also slightly outpaced the statewide level for excessive drinking, with 18 percent of adults surveyed in the county reporting “binge or heavy drinking” compared to 17 percent across North Carolina as a whole.
Rates of sexually transmitted infections — measured by the “number of newly diagnosed chlamydia cases” per 100,000 people — are “getting worse” in Mecklenburg County, the study said. In 2020, “840.4 new cases of chlamydia were diagnosed per 100,000 people” in the county, according to the study. Statewide, there were 616.3 new cases per 100,000 people in the same time period, and nationally there were 481.3 new cases per 100,000 people.
Mecklenburg ahead in premature deaths and smoking
Mecklenburg County got high marks for its rate of premature death in the study, measured by the “years of potential life lost before age 75” per 100,000 people. “In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, 6,100 years of life were lost to deaths of people under age 75, per 100,000 people,” from 2018 to 2020, the study said.
That’s lower than the 8,000 years of life lost statewide in the same time period and 7,300 years of life lost nationally. Mecklenburg County also bested North Carolina in health behaviors such as adult smoking, access to exercise and teen pregnancy. The county’s air quality is also “getting better,” though the study also found air pollution in Mecklenburg County is still worse than the state and country as a whole.
Healthiest and least health counties in North Carolina
Wake County was named the healthiest in North Carolina in the 2023 rankings. Rates of premature death are falling in the county, the study found, and alcohol-impaired driving deaths decreased as well. At the other end of the spectrum, Robeson County finished last in the rankings.
Upticks in sexually transmitted diseases and child poverty pulled down its overall health outcomes, the study said. To see the full study results and compare counties across the country, visit countyhealthrankings.org.
This article appears courtesy of our media partner The Charlotte Observer.