State of Health in New Mexico 2018
Executive SummaryNew Mexico's health status continues to evolve as demographics change and specific health issues become more or less prominent. For a state with a relatively small population, New Mexico's health status remains quite complex. This report aims to systematically review New Mexico's health status from various vantage points and allow certain key findings to emerge.
One key vantage point is the comparison to the United States. Unfortunately, the U.S. life expectancy has decreased over the last two years, mainly due to drug overdose, suicide and Alzheimer's disease. New Mexico's life expectancy decreased even more than that of the U.S. in 2016 - a drop of 0.3 years - due to drug overdose, motor vehicle injuries, heart disease and infant mortality.
For the three leading causes of death, New Mexico has lower death rates than those of the U.S. for heart disease and cancer, but much higher rates for unintentional injuries which includes drug overdose, motor vehicle injuries and older adult falls. New Mexico also has substantially higher death rates than those of the U.S. for suicide and for cirrhosis and chronic liver disease, which is primarily due to alcohol use.
Disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs (chapter 16), provide New Mexico with a broader health status measure by adding years lived with a disability to the picture. Among the top 10 causes of years of healthy life lost are three for which New Mexico has significantly higher rates than those found for the U.S. These are drug use disorders, motor vehicle injuries and self-harm (suicide). This finding confirms the developing picture that injury, substance use and mental illness are what sets New Mexico's health status apart from that of the U.S.
Disparities in health status within New Mexico are also striking and emerge from this report. Poverty is relatively common in New Mexico and those who live in poverty generally have worse health status. American Indians and Alaska Natives in New Mexico are the racial group with the highest overall death rates and the shortest life expectancy, which are driven by alcohol-related disease and injury. Rural areas in New Mexico are on the wrong end of many health disparities in New Mexico and, overall, persons living there have a shorter life expectancy due in part to higher smoking rates and less access to care.
New Mexico, like the U.S., is undergoing a crisis in that life expectancy is worsening due to substance use and injury. Public health and society as a whole have to become much more effective at dealing with these problems if these trends are to be reversed.