It’s not all quinoa and CrossFit. King County has its vices.
Check out any list of America’s healthiest cities, and Seattle is pretty much a shoo-in to place near the top. No wonder — healthful, active lifestyles are a defining aspect of our local culture.
You see signs of it everywhere. Think I-5 is the most jammed up thing around here? Try hiking Mount Si on a nice weekend. And how many big cities have about the same number of farmers markets as McDonald’s? I haven’t looked into it, but I’m guessing there can’t be many others.
But not everybody here is all about quinoa and CrossFit. Seattle is still home to plenty of folks who aren’t on board with the healthful lifestyle thing, and thanks to new data from Public Health — Seattle & King County, we know where they are.
We’ve mapped out the data, which was collected in 2012 and 2013, and is divided into 48 Health Reporting Areas around the county. The risky behaviors we included are: smoking; smoking during pregnancy; binge drinking, drug overdoses; and marijuana use. (Don’t hassle us about including pot; it was the health department that grouped this data under the heading “Substance Abuse and Chemical Dependency.”)
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As you can see by exploring our interactive map, there are enormous disparities between neighborhoods and cities in King County when it comes to these behaviors.
For example, there is a much higher rate of smoking in poorer parts of the county. This follows a national trend, in which smoking has declined dramatically among wealthier Americans, but not among the poor. In the North Highline section of Burien, 30 percent of adults smoke — that’s six times higher than it is in Redmond.
When it comes to unhealthful behavior, it’s hard to top smoking while pregnant. Nevertheless, in the south part of Auburn, more than one out of 10 new mothers own up to it. West Bellevue has the lowest rate — less than 1 percent.
Central Seattle has a lock on binge drinking, with the downtown neighborhoods edging out nearby Capitol Hill and Queen Anne. More than one third of adults who live downtown say they’ve been on a bender — defined as five or more drinks on one occasion for men, or four or more for women. Though with the current pattern of nightlife moving to Capitol Hill, downtown’s reign may soon be over.
Downtown also leads in drug overdoses, and here it isn’t even close. At 48.5 deaths per 100,000 population, downtown has nearly four times higher rate than the county as a whole. If you’ve spent much time at Third and Pine lately, that’s likely no surprise.
It probably isn’t fair to include marijuana here, since the survey asks about any use — not excessive use. We’ve included it because we figured readers would want to know the pot capital of Seattle. That honor goes to the downtown Seattle neighborhoods, where 22 percent of adults are taking full advantage of legalization. That is double the King County average. On the opposite end of the spectrum, just 1 percent of Mercer Island and East Renton residents report getting stoned in the past 30 days.
Explore the data for yourself on our interactive map below. Tab along the top to see each of the five different unhealthy behaviors. Click on any area to see the underlying data.