CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) – The United Health Foundation‘s Health Rankings 2022 Annual Report has shown that West Virginia’s drug-related deaths are up 54 percent this year.

The 2022 Annual Report is one of the most comprehensive U.S. health reviews since the pandemic began. It highlights improvements, challenges and disparities in the health and well-being of Americans across all 50 states. The report also includes an in-depth analysis of West Virginia. 

Key findings contained in the report include:

  1. West Virginia’s health score ranked #47, with only 3 states ranking lower: Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana. State rankings weren’t included in the 2020-2021 reports due to COVID-19, but this marks a drop from #45 in 2019
  2. Drug-related deaths were up 30% nationally, the largest yearly increase since 2007, and even more in West Virginia (+54%). Drug deaths were almost 8 times higher in West Virginia than in states like South Dakota. 
  3. Illicit or non-medical drug use increased 29% nationally, including a significant number of adults (18+) in West Virginia (25.7%). 
  4. Access to high-speed internet increased 11% in West Virginia, similar to the 8% national increase since 2016. 
  5. Fourth grade reading proficiency is down 26% in West Virginia. 

The full report analyzes more than 80 measures at the national and state levels. Nationally, the premature death rate — years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population — increased 18% between 2019 and 2020, the sharpest increase over a single year in Annual Report history.

Drug deaths increased 30% nationally from 2019 to 2020, the largest year-over-year increase since 2007 — most notably among multiracial (45%) and Black (43%) populations. Drug deaths were nine times higher among the American Indian/Alaska Native population (highest) than among the Asian population (lowest).