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Rhode Island ranks among healthiest states in Sharecare, BU well-being index

The Ocean State ranked 12th in the 2021 “Community Well-Being Index,” which evaluated individual health, employment, housing, and other data

The Rose Island Lighthouse in Narragansett Bay.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

EAST PROVIDENCE — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Rhode Islanders reported better individual health in 2020, according to a study released Tuesday.

The study, by Boston University’s School of Public Health and the digital health company Sharecare, surveys people on how they feel about their lives and communities, and mixes in objective data on things like employment and housing. The result is what’s called a “Community Well-Being Index.”

In 2019, Rhode Island ranked 17th in the nation on this overall index. In 2020, buoyed by improved survey rankings from the people who live here, Rhode Island went to 12th, the study released Tuesday says.


“I think with what happened with COVID, we all are stronger together in a way,” said Kimberly Dukes, a Boston University School of Public Health associate professor who helped lead the study. “So we all have to worry about the health of all. Together we’ll do better — that’s the whole idea.”

Rhode Island went up in the rankings thanks to reported improvements in our financial well-being. Even as the nation overall reported lower financial well-being, Rhode Island improved slightly.

Still, even with improvements, Rhode Islanders’ scores on some parts of the survey were decidedly mediocre: 27th nationally on that financial health ranking (up from 2019′s 44th), 34th nationally when asked about supportive relationships and love in life; 34th in “liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community,” and 25th in “having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.”

For social determinants of health, the researchers looked at real-world data, like employment numbers, home values, and access to health care. Rhode Island’s rankings in these measures in 2020 were pretty much unchanged from 2019, bringing it into eighth place nationally overall, 33rd in economic security, 15th in housing and transportation, second in access to health care, sixth in food access, and 16th in access to resources like libraries, churches, and senior centers.


Dukes, who is the executive director of BU’s Biostatistics and Epidemiology Data Analytics Center, said they’ll next work on doing county-level reports. Not all of Rhode Island’s five counties followed the same patterns.

Here’s how Rhode Island ranked overall, compared to other neighboring and New England states:

  • Rhode Island: 12th
  • Massachusetts: 1st
  • New Hampshire: 16th
  • Vermont: 22nd
  • Maine: 29th
  • Connecticut: 7th
  • New York: 5th

The top 10 states in the index were:

  • Massachusetts
  • Hawaii
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • New York
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Utah

The bottom 10 states were:

  • Indiana
  • Tennessee
  • Louisiana
  • Alabama
  • Oklahoma
  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • New Mexico
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi

Sharecare and BUSPH gather data via web and mail surveys with 453,705 U.S. residents aged 18 and older from all 50 states during 2020. The full report can be found here. Rhode Island’s data can be found here.

Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.