ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico ranks 42nd in the country when it comes to the overall health of its senior citizens, according to a new report.
The report was compiled by United Health Foundation, a nonprofit arm of health insurer UnitedHealthcare Group. Last year, New Mexico’s rank was No. 40.
Among the highlights of the report, which compiled data on health outcomes and determinants for seniors:
• New Mexicans age 60 and over have the second-lowest rates of obesity in the nation next to Hawaii.
• The state also has a high number of home health care workers, as well as a high percentage of those 60 and over with independent living difficulty receiving meal delivery, when compared to other states.
• New Mexico’s challenges for senior health include a high percentage of seniors living in poverty, a high prevalence of food insecurity and a low prevalence of seniors with a dedicated provider.
• Smoking, not including vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes, jumped from 8.5 percent to 11.1 percent over a one-year period for New Mexicans age 65 and over.
A spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health said state epidemiologists do not believe the smoking increase is statistically significant.
Dr. Denise Leonardi, senior medical director for UnitedHealthcare New Mexico, said the state is 49th in the nation when it comes to the number of adults age 65 and older living at or below the poverty level. The high prevalence of poverty in that population leads to other health challenges for seniors: access to health care, food insecurity and depression among them.
“We know that we have areas that must be improved in New Mexico,” said Leonardi. “Having such a high percentage of seniors in poverty is one of them. It affects health and healthy behavior.”