Last updated: 05:21 PM ET, Tue March 31 2015

2015 County Health Rankings Reveal Healthiest, Deadliest US Counties

Destination & Tourism | Patrick Clarke | March 31, 2015

2015 County Health Rankings Reveal Healthiest, Deadliest US Counties

Image courtesy of Thinkstock/Liz Gregg

If you're traveling the U.S. scouting out the top places to retire, you might want to start with Pitkin County, Colorado.

Sure, there are a number of factors that influence a person's lifespan beyond destination, but according to research conducted by the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute, the residents of Pitkin live the longest lives in America.

Pitkin, perhaps best known for its county seat of Aspen, boasts the nation's lowest mortality rate at 118.5, meaning roughly 0.19 percent of the population will die prematurely (before age 75) in a given year.

For perspective, the median across the U.S. is 376 or 0.38 percent.

Highlighted by Pitkin, Colorado features prominently at the top of the list, with five other counties representing the Centennial State in the top 10. Summit (No. 2), Eagle (No. 5), San Miguel (No. 6), Custer (No. 7), and Douglas (No. 10) each boasts a mortality rate under 170. 

Meanwhile, two Texas counties, Presidio (No. 3), and Hartley (No. 9) cracked the top 10, while Mono, California (No. 4) and Teton, Wyoming (No. 8), helped strengthen the case for Western living. 

But when it comes to the U.S. counties with the worst lifespans, South Dakota and Kentucky feature heavily, with Oglala Lakota County (previously known as Shannon County up until a recent vote) in South Dakota securing the infamous bottom spot, according to the institute's research. 

With a smoking and obesity-assisted mortality rate of 983.4, Oglala Lakota, which is located within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is signficantly ahead of second-worst Todd, South Dakota (878.2).

Here's a look at how Oglala Lakota compares to the rest of the country via AP reporter Russell Contreras:

It's worth pointing out that Oglala Lakota Native Americans make up 90 percent of Oglala Lakota's population of 14,000, and as of the 2010 U.S. Census, the county had the second lowest per capita income at $6,286.

"We are the sickest racial, ethnic population in the United States," said Colorado State University Native American health professor Irene Vernon via "These traumatic impacts — loss of land, loss of community, loss of family, warfare — have been passed on from generation to generation."

McDowell, West Virginia (861.2), Sioux, North Dakota (834.5) and Dewey, South Dakota (811.4) round out the bottom five destinations by average lifespan.

Slightly ahead are Corson, South Dakota (792.6), and Union, Florida (780.6), followed by Owsley, Robertson, and Perry Counties in Kentucky, which have mortality rates ranging from 742 to 777.

Eight other Kentucky counties made the bottom 25.

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