While health insurance is widespread in Essex County, as it is throughout Massachusetts, the county shares many of the same health concerns as the nation: obesity, diabetes, smoking, cancer and drug addiction. The opioid crisis has hit Essex County particularly hard, as evidenced by high rates of admissions for treatment and deaths from overdose.
Just 3% of Essex County residents under 65 in 2016 lacked health insurance, on par with the state but far below the national rate of 10%. Spending on medical care was $524 per member, per month in 2017, higher than 2016 and below the statewide level of $630.
While Essex County was not immune from any of the nation’s leading health-related problems, the area where it stood out was substance abuse. A national survey found rising rates of illegal drug use that were somewhat higher in the county (19% of adults and 17% of youth said they used an illegal drug in the last 30 days) than in the nation. And the rate of drug overdose deaths in Essex County, 23 per 100,000 residents, was higher than the national rate of 20.
State data on treatment admissions shows the growing problem of heroin. While total admissions rose 15% from 2005 to 2014 to nearly 10,500, admissions primarily due to heroin increased 60% while several other categories declined. By 2014, heroin and other opioids were responsible for 60% of admissions, up from 46% in 2005. Essex County’s rate of admissions, 136 per 10,000 residents, was below the state rate of 154 but far higher than the Middlesex County rate of 90.
In other areas of behavioral health and general health, Essex County more closely mirrors other areas:
Essex County had relatively high rates in a few other areas: