Where you live in New Jersey could influence how long and how well you live.

Annual rankings released Wednesday from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute have gone county by county in New Jersey to determine the healthiest and least healthy spots, based on more than 30 factors, including a closer look than in previous years at premature deaths — those that occur before age 75.

Once again, Hunterdon County ranked as the healthiest county in the Garden State. Cumberland County is at the bottom of the list of all 21 counties. Hunterdon and Cumberland have each had these distinctions in the survey since at least 2011.

"The northwest counties in New Jersey tend to be near the top of the list and the southern and some of the eastern counties in New Jersey tend to be lower down on the list," said Don Schwarz, vice president for program with RWJF.

The overall county rankings, from healthiest to least, are:

  1. Hunterdon
  2. Morris
  3. Somerset
  4. Bergen
  5. Sussex
  6. Middlesex
  7. Monmouth
  8. Union
  9. Warren
  10. Ocean
  11. Burlington
  12. Mercer
  13. Hudson
  14. Gloucester
  15. Passaic
  16. Cape May
  17. Atlantic
  18. Camden
  19. Salem
  20. Essex
  21. Cumberland

“New Jersey’s health improvement plan, Healthy New Jersey 2020, empowers local communities with interactive data to monitor health improvements and track progress on disease prevention,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said in a news release on the rankings. “State grants to local communities are funding innovative projects to keep the well healthy, support those at risk for health problems and prevent those with chronic conditions from getting sicker.”

Well surpassing the New Jersey average of 5,500 in the category of premature death, the report found Cumberland County residents lost 7,900 years of potential life before age 75 per 100,000 population. Cancer and heart disease were the top causes.

Somerset County posted the best score in this category — 3,900 years lost.

At 20 percent and 18 percent, Cumberland and Salem Counties posted the highest rates of adults who smoke.

At 20 percent, Monmouth and Burlington Counties had the highest percentage of adults reporting binge or heavy drinking. Middlesex County posted the lowest percentage — 15 percent.

On average statewide, 336 new cases of chlamydia were diagnosed per 100,000 people in 2014. Eight counties — Atlantic, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Passaic and Union — posted higher rates.

"The proportion of children who are living in poverty in each county is a strong driver of the county health ranking each year," Schwarz added.

The child poverty rate (counting those under age 18) in Hunterdon County was recorded at 5 percent. Cumberland County recorded a rate of 26 percent, 10 points higher than the statewide average.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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