Heavy-drinking Marin toasts to its health

For the fifth year running, researchers have ranked Marin County as California’s healthiest — in spite of residents admitting to binge drinking at three times the national average.

According to a national study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the generally-affluent North Bay county ranked first in life expectancy statewide and placed in the top five percent in a dozen categories including crime, unemployment and education.

The study noted Marin’s low teen birth rate, low premature death rate, high high-school graduation rate, low violent crime rate, low percent of unemployment and low percent of uninsured adults.

According to the report, one-third of Marin residents live walking distance from a park or a preserve. Efforts to promote physical activity and preserve Marin’s physical and social environment have helped it attract those seeking a healthy lifestyle.

In a statement, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey said:

“The County Health Rankings show us that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office. In fact, where we live, learn, work and play has a big role in determining how healthy we are and how long we live.”

Marin did not fare well however when it came to alcohol consumption, with the county finishing in the bottom 50 percent in rates for excessive drinking.

Nearly one-quarter of residents admitted to consuming at least four or five drinks during a single sitting in the last 30 days.

Larry Meredith, director of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services told the Marin Independent Journal:

“The binge drinking continues to be an issue. We know it’s consistent across all age groups. It’s clearly on everybody’s radar.”

A report on health inequality by Marin County’s Department of Health and Human Services points out a significant disparity in health outcomes between Marin’s largely affluent population and its pockets of extreme poverty.

Illuminating this discrepancy, Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis says that in some school districts, over half the students are obese or overweight:

“There’s plenty to celebrate here, but the rankings mask some real differences in health status between communities within Marin.”