U.S. Counties With the Best and Worst Quality of Life in Every State

Written by Carly Hallman

Many factors influence the quality of life offered by a location. The economy, environment, safety, health, education, transportation, accessibility, public service, culture, and sense of community all influence how an individual feels about the place they live in. Ultimately, these factors tremendously affect the physical and mental well-being of the location’s residents. One way to get a sense of the quality of life in a place is to survey how the community feels about their physical and mental health. This infographic uses the extensive County Health Rankings data to visualize quality of life on a county-by-county basis.

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The factors included on the infographic include Poor or Fair Health (the percentage of adults reporting fair or poor health), Poor Physical Health Days (the average number of physically unhealthy days reported in the past 30 days), Poor Mental Health Days (the average number of mentally unhealthy days reported in the past 30 days), Frequent Physical Distress (the percentage of adults reporting 14 or more days of poor physical health per month), and Frequent Mental Distress (the percentage of adults reporting 14 or more days of poor mental health per month). The last two parameters do not influence the rankings, but we consider them significant for shedding light on the livelihood of the county.

Here are the top five counties with the best quality of life, according to the data:

  1. Douglas County, Colorado — The county seat of Douglas County is Castle Rock, and it’s considered to be part of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area. It has the highest median household income in all of Colorado and ranks in the top ten for the entire nation. Natural areas are plentiful, offering recreation and exercise opportunities.
  2. Johnson County, Kansas — Johnson County is the most densely populated and wealthy part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, with a median income of $81,121.
  3. Washington County, Minnesota — The county seat is Stillwater, and the largest city is Woodbury. It has the highest per-capita income ($36,248) in the entire state.
  4. Montgomery County, Maryland — It’s the most populous county in the state, located adjacent to Washington, D.C. It has the 17th highest median household income in the United States ($99,763).
  5. Hamilton County, Indiana — The county seat is Noblesville, and it’s part of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. It’s by far the richest county in Indiana, with a median household income of $82,468.

To determine the five counties with the worst quality of life, we used the Poor or Fair Health and Poor Mental Health Days data to create a more well-rounded ranking:

  1. East Carroll County, Louisiana Seventy-five percent of East Carroll County’s land is devoted to crops. It’s estimated that 44% of the county’s residents live in poverty.
  2. McCreary County, Kentucky — The economic history of McCreary County of is one of boom and bust after the coal mining and timber industries dried up. It is one of the most government assistance dependent (SNAP, SSI, SSDI, Social Security, Medicaid, etc.) counties in the United States; public assistance makes up 52.46% of resident income.
  3. Quitman County, Mississippi — Martin Luther King intended for the Poor People’s Campaign to start in Quitman County because of the intense economic disparity there. When he visited, he was brought to tears when he witnessed a teacher feeding the schoolchildren their lunch, which consisted of only a slice of apple and some crackers.
  4. Hudspeth County, Texas — Many ghost towns are dotted throughout the county, such as Acala, Birchville, Etholen, Finlay, and Salt Flat. The county’s per-capita income makes it one of the poorest in the nation.
  5. McDowell County, West Virginia — In 2015, McDowell County had the highest rate of drug-induced deaths out of any county in America.

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