Tennessee Makes Progress in the Face of Tough Health Issues

Apr. 30, 2016

Arby’s restaurant worker handing a customer in a pick-up truck a bag of food at their drive through window.

Smoking, fast food consumption, babies' sleep habits affect overall health in Tennessee

Moving On Up

Tennesseans have some work to do to get out of the bottom 10 rankings for physical health, but overall life feels pretty good.

The state rose by eight spots in the 2016 Gallup/Healthways State of Well-Being Rankings.

Last year Tennessee was ranked 45 in the country; this year we ranked No. 37.

The survey measures 5 factors:

Fast food state

Tennessee has 3.95 fast food restaurants for every 10,000 people.

That’s the sixth highest ratio in the country.

The five with even higher ratios:

  • Wyoming: 4.03
  • Kansas: 4.03
  • Arkansas: 4.03
  • Oklahoma: 4.04
  • Kentucky: 4.14

Kids’ unhappy meals

A recent study of children’s eating habits showed that families using food stamps are concerned about food waste, which affects their meals.

Young children with a developing palate tend to reject vegetables at first taste and won’t try new foods.

Parents may try serving more nutritious meals, but after seeing food go to waste, they stick with foods that the child will eat — often not the healthiest options — and a pattern of poor diet is set.

Where there’s smoke

A recent study calculated the total costs of smoking for every state.

In Tennessee it added up to an incredible $1,279,003 per smoker.


That takes into account the smoker’s health care costs, as well as:

  • Those affected by secondhand smoke
  • Lost productivity and income
  • The cost of the cigarettes themselves over the span of a lifetime

Babies sleep safely

A statewide effort to educate hospital staff and new parents about safe sleeping conditions for babies has seen significant success.

Since the program began in 2014, Tennessee has had a 25 percent reduction in sleep-related infant deaths.

To learn more about how Tennessee ranks for health issues, click here.