Updated November 30, 2013

Study: Best Cities for Healthy Living

10 Best Cities for the Health Conscious and Financially Fit
Read more about Financial Literacy Month

Does the health of the people who live in the same city impact your finances? Absolutely. When a city has a healthy environment, as well as healthy residents, you'll spend less money on insurance, health care, and safety expenses.

It also can impact less obvious expenses, such as lost time and wages. For example, if you’re waiting in an emergency room in a city that has higher obesity and violent crime rates, you’ll have a longer wait than you would in an area that’s less problematic from a health standpoint. We looked at the country's largest cities to determine the healthiest so you can see how your city compares.

Study Methodology

  1. Obesity
  2. Number of people who are uninsured
  3. Those living below poverty line
  4. Violent crime
  5. Average credit score

First, we looked at the percentage of those who are obese in each metropolitan area as determined by Gallup-Healthways 2012 Well-Being Index. As the Harvard School of Public Health reports, obesity carries many direct and indirect costs to a city. Those who are obese are more likely to have other existing conditions, making insurance more costly for everyone.

We also used the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index to determine the percentage of those who are uninsured in a city. Studies show that the higher number of uninsured, the higher the health care costs for those who are insured in a community. Also, uninsured people are more likely to have unaddressed health issues, which could cost more in the long run.

Next, we looked at the percentage of those living below the poverty level. When someone grows up in or lives in poverty, they are more likely to engage in violent crimes and have serious health complications later in life.

We also looked at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's report of violent crime for each city. Every time a violent crime is committed, there is a significant cost to the taxpayer. Also, the higher the crime in a community, the more likely it is that residents will have to spend more on safety costs to protect themselves and their families.

Finally, we looked at the average credit score of each city. This is important because higher credit scores indicate those people are more likely to have strong financial health. This means they will have more money to spend on health care and other expenses. If they live in any of the cities below, they won’t have to do much of that!

Best Cities for the Health Conscious and Financially Fit

1. Boston, MA

Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts

  • % obese: 19.8
  • % uninsured: 4.3
  • % of those living below poverty line: 10.7
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.37
  • Average credit score: 702

It is fitting that the city with the first health department is also the nation's healthiest city. Boston has a very active Public Health Commission that works toward combating issues such as obesity and heart disease outcomes. Boston also has the nation's highest average credit score, as well as the lowest percentage of those who are uninsured. A state law requires all Massachusetts residents to have health care or pay a penalty, which makes residents more likely to seek a doctor for illnesses and preventative services.

2. Washington, DC

Washington, DC
Washington, DC

  • % obese: 21.7
  • % uninsured: 10.6
  • % of those living below poverty line: 8.3
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.33
  • Average credit score: 690

The nation's capital ranks second on the list. Washington, DC, has a low number of people living below the poverty line, as well as a low amount of people who are uninsured. The area’s positive numbers could be partly attributed to the fact that many residents are government employees and most likely have insurance.

It seems the health outcomes for residents are improving, even for newborns. On June 13, Mayor Vincent C. Gray, announced the district continues to lower its infant mortality rate, which Saul Levin, the city’s interim director for the Department of Heath, says reflects DC’s “commitment to increased access to care.”

3. San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California

  • % obese: 18
  • % uninsured: 11.8
  • % of those living below poverty line: 11.9
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.51
  • Average credit score: 696

San Francisco has a low amount of people who are obese and living in poverty, making it rank third on the list. In its favor is the city’s Healthy San Francisco initiative, a health access program for uninsured residents, as well as walkable neighborhoods that encourage residents to keep moving. The city also recently underwent a health assessment to determine the greatest health needs and disparities in its borders. From those results, it created San Francisco's Community Health Improvement Plan, which plans to increase the availability of healthy environments, promote physical activity of residents, and provide increased access to health care. Once many of these initiatives are in place, it could bump San Francisco even higher up on this list.

4. Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • % obese: 21.9
  • % uninsured: 9.2
  • % of those living below poverty line: 11
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.52
  • Average credit score: 691

Considered one of the most bikeable communities, and home to residents who are in great health, Minneapolis was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Roadmap to Health Prize, which honors communities every year that are helping their citizens lead healthier lives. Minneapolis promotes healthy lifestyles, as well as implements a strong obesity and tobacco prevention initiative. Recently, Minneapolis received a grant from the Minnesota's Department of Transportation to improve the city's public transportation. The $6.79 million will be used to increase mobility downtown, which means more people could rely on public transportation and consequently lead to better air quality.

5. Hartford, CT

Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut

  • % obese: 23.4
  • % uninsured: 8.1
  • % of those living below poverty line: 11.4
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.29
  • Average credit score: 692

Hartford has a low number of residents who are uninsured and living under the poverty line, as well as relatively low violent crime rates, which makes the city rank fifth on the list. The nearby University of Hartford offers free testing and health care services for students, and the city offers a free flu clinic, which helps improve the overall health of the city. Hartford also has several commissions that evaluate the effectiveness of the city's health programs. These include commissions that are exploring aging, HIV/AIDS, food policies, the environment, and grandparents raising grandchildren.

6. San Jose, CA

San Jose, California
San Jose, California

  • % obese: 17.8
  • % uninsured: 12.9
  • % of those living below poverty line: 12.8
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.35
  • Average credit score: 700

San Jose residents have a high average credit score and low levels of violent crime. A campaign for access to healthy foods in the city also helps to promote healthy eating choices to lower obesity rates. The program is called Healthy Food San Jose, which hopes to increase urban agriculture in the area, support certified farmer's markets and mobile produce vendors, and provide increased outreach on the importance of healthy food choices. The city also plans to open a new health center in its downtown by 2015, as it did not have a medical facility in that area.

7. Denver, CO

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado

  • % obese: 18.4
  • % uninsured: 15.3
  • % of those living below poverty line: 10.6
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.26
  • Average credit score: 690

Denver has a fairly low amount of those living below the poverty line plus a low rate of violent crime. The Denver Health Foundation helps those with health issues get treatment so the cost doesn't end up on the taxpayers’ dime. Denver also has a health care coalition that works with area hospitals, the mayor's office, the Red Cross, and other nonprofit organizations to improve the city in emergency preparedness procedures, as well as the overall health of residents. Moreover, Denver Public Schools recently began offering healthy snacks in its public schools system. The schools have removed sodas from vending machines and set limits for sugar, fat, and salt sold in machines and snack bars. The program ensures that a child's snack money will be spent on healthier items at school.

8. Seattle, WA

Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington

  • % obese: 21.4
  • % uninsured: 13
  • % of those living below poverty line: 11.9
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.33
  • Average credit score: 685

Seattle has a low rate of violent crime and low poverty rate, which is why it ranks eighth on the list. The city offers several food and health services for those in need, and the county's health department funds many services to improve the overall health of residents. At the beginning of 2013, Seattle created a health care coalition to address natural disasters and response times with area hospitals and health care providers. Their goal is to be more efficient and prepared in a worst-case scenario.

9. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • % obese: 26.8
  • % uninsured: 8
  • % of those living below poverty line: 12.6
  • % of those who commit violent crime: .3
  • Average credit score: 693

Pittsburgh ranks ninth on the list, mostly because of low violent crime and uninsured rates. The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative is one of the first initiatives in the nation that gets community leaders and lawmakers working together to focus on improving the health of residents. The city also has the University of Pittsburgh's Health Sciences division. The university offers lectures about health issues so that residents can become more knowledgeable and proactive about their health. And, every year, the public is invited to attend a free health and fitness expo before the city’s marathon.

10. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland

  • % obese: 25.8
  • % uninsured: 10.2
  • % of those living below poverty line: 11.6
  • % of those who commit violent crime: 0.65
  • Average credit score: 682

Baltimore rounds out the list as the 10th healthiest city in the nation. Although violent crime is high, the percent of those uninsured and living under the poverty line are low. The city's Healthy Baltimore initiative aims to significantly improve health outcomes for residents by 2015. A recent report ranked Baltimore as one of the five metropolitan areas with the greatest overall state of well-being. Factors considered were education, income, health, and longevity.


Although the indicators used in this study give a general idea of the healthiest cities, it does not include other components, such as mental health and elderly services. Of course, it is also important to consider a person's own personal health before a city's health when thinking about health care costs. For example, a person who is older with a pre-existing condition will most likely have higher health care costs than someone without any health issues.

Sources used in this study:

  • U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 Poverty Levels by Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Gallup-Healthways 2012 Well-Being Index
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2011 Crime in the United States
  • Experian's Average Credit Score by Metropolitan Statistical Area

Tracy Jones is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Tracy Jones at tracy@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped families make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

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