DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Residents of northeastern Minnesota lead the state in overall mortality rate, which means the people there are more likely to die of any cause in a year than other Minnesota residents, according to a new state report.
That includes a higher risk of succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cirrhosis, suicide and unintentional injuries like accidents or crime.
The Duluth News Tribune reported the findings came from a “chart book” on the health of rural Minnesotans released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health.
“You live in God’s country up there, and you pay a price for it,” said Jon Roesler, a state Health Department epidemiologist. “I mean, we all want to live there, but then you look at these health-outcome numbers, and you go — whoa.”
The results of the report, which relies on data from the Minnesota Center for Health Statistics, could be attributed to a lack of health care resources. For example, Roesler noted suicide rates were higher in rural areas than cities.
“Outside of Duluth, in the northeast, how many psychiatrists are there?” he asked. “Probably not very many. The economics of delivering specialized care is pretty tough.”
The report doesn’t compare urban and rural areas within a region. Nawal Lutffiya, a researcher with the Duluth-based Essentia Institute of Rural Health, said she suspects those numbers would favor the Duluth area over rural parts of the region.
“Typically on health indicators, rural residents fare more poorly than their urban or nonrural counterparts,” Lutffiya said. “Part of that has to do with any number of things … less wealth, less education, less access to health care.”
Minnesotans in the northeastern counties of St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Carlton, Aitkin, Itasca and Koochiching have low rates of sexually transmitted diseases and food poisoning.
While the region compares poorly to other parts of the state, Minnesota is one of the nation’s healthiest. “Minnesota is frequently ranked as one of the healthiest states in the nation, despite considerable differences in the health of Minnesotans in distinct regions of the state,” the report said.
The northeast region’s mortality rate of 767 per 100,000 was below the national average of 804 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the northeast regional rate is still higher than the state average of 678 and higher than any other region.
The southeast, home of the Mayo Clinic, had the lowest mortality rate in the state at 642 per 100,000. In the metro region, which includes the Twin Cities, the rate was 670.
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