Many U.S. states — including some that have done poorly on rankings of health measures for decades — have been reporting great success with keeping older residents independent in the past few years.

That performance showed up earlier this week in a new batch of disability prevalence statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau collected the statistics through the American Community Survey, a program that sends suvey questionnaires to 3 million U.S. households per year. One thing members of the public can do with the results is to use a research tools system to produce state disability statistics tables.

A user can look at the percentage of people in different age groups in each state who have any disabilities, multiple disabilities, specific types of disabilities, disabilities that interfere with self care, and disabilities that keep people from living independently.

For purposes of the American Community Survey, the Census Bureau defines someone who has “independent living difficulty” as someone who, “because of a physical, mental or emotional problem, [is] having difficulty doing errands alone, such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping.”

Many people who have any “independent living difficulty” already need some informal long-term care (LTC) services from friends and family members, and are well on their way to having the kinds of “self-care difficulties” (such as problems with bathing and dressing) that may lead to an ongoing need for extensive home care, expensive assisted living facility care, or full-blown nursing home care.

Private insurers that sell long-term care insurance (LTCI) and other disability- and LTC-related products in states with improving independent living statistics may find that the insureds in those states do better than expected and help hold down claims costs.

See also: Where are the high-income thin people?

Of course, changes in survey methods or other confounding figures may skew the numbers, but it could also be that the new survey numbers reflect real improvements in health services and support services, even in some states traditionally known for high infant mortality rates, high early-death rates among residents who survive infancy, and high disability rates.

But, in many states, there’s an interesting split: Independent living statistics deteriorated for residents ages 18 to 64 as they improved for residents ages 75 and older. That may reflect improvements in health care and life expectancy for children born with severe health problems, but it also could reflect lifestyle differences, or differences in the health care systems for people under 65 and people ages 65 and older.

For a list of the 10 states that showed the greatest improvement between 2008 and 2012, and a table showing the independent living disability prevalence percentages for residents ages 75 and older in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, read on. 

Minnesota

10. Minnesota

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 2.5%

2012: 3%

Change, 2008-2012: +0.5 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 22.1%

2012: 19.6%

Change, 2008-2012: 2.5 percentage points

 

See also: Americans’ Health Improves Slightly: Study.

 

Nevada

9. Nevada

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 2.8%

2012: 3.3%

Change, 2008-2012: +0.5 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 26.9%

2012: 24.3%

Change, 2008-2012: -2.6 percentage points

 

See also: The new retirement dream: Relocation.

 

 

Oklahoma

8. Oklahoma

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 4.4%

2012: 4.5%

Change, 2008-2012: +0.1 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 27.7%

2012: 24.9%

Change, 2008-2012: -2.8 percentage points

 

See also: How PPACA has changed insured rates, state by state

 

Arizona

7. Arizona

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 3.4%

2012: 3.5%

Change, 2008-2012: +0.1 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 24.4%

2012: 21.3%

Change, 2008-2012: -3.1 percentage points

 

See also: 12 best cities for successful aging: 2014.

Colorado

6. Colorado

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 2.3%

2012: 2.6%

Change, 2008-2012: +0.3 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 25.8%

2012: 22.3%

Change, 2008-2012: -3.5 percentage points

 

See also: 10 of the best cities to retire in the U.S.

 

Mississippi

5. Mississippi

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 5.5%

2012: 5.3%

Change, 2008-2012: -0.2 percentage points  

Ages 75 and up

2008: 34.8%

2012: 30.7%

Change, 2008-2012: -4.1 percentage points

 

See also: Top 15 cheapest states for long-term care costs: 2014.

Vermont

4. Vermont

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 3.8%

2012: 3.7%

Change, 2008-2012: -0.1 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 24.6%

2012: 20.3%

Change, 2008-2012: -4.3 percentage points

 

See also: The 10 healthiest states in America

Arkansas

3. Arkansas

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 5.8%

2012: 5.2%

Change, 2008-2012: -0.6 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 31.6%

2012: 26.9%

Change, 2008-2012: -4.7 percentage points

 

See also: PwC: ER use in Arkansas has dropped.

District of Columbia

2. District of Columbia

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 3.2%

2012: 3.4%

Change, 2008-2012: +0.2 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 29%

2012: 23.6%

Change, 2008-2012: -5.4 percentage points

 

See also: The 10 least happy states in America.

Louisiana

1. Louisiana

Independent living disability prevalence

Ages 18-64

2008: 4.8%

2012: 4.5%

Change, 2008-2012: -0.3 percentage points

Ages 75 and up

2008: 34.5%

2012: 28.5%

Change, 2008-2012: -6.5 percentage points

 

See also: Why should LTC needs forecasters hate these 5 states?

 

Independent living difficulty

 

The prevalence of conditions that limited the ability of people ages 75 and older to live on their own.   
State 2008 (in percent) 2012 (in percent) Change, 2008-2012 (in percentage points)
Alabama 34.3 32 -2.3
Alaska 26 36.2 10.2
Arizona 24.4 21.3 -3.1
Arkansas 31.6 26.9 -4.7
California 30.1 30.2 0.1
Colorado 25.8 22.3 -3.5
Connecticut 24.3 23.9 -0.4
Delaware 23.8 24.1 0.3
District of Columbia 29 23.6 -5.4
Florida 23 23.2 0.2
Georgia 33.2 31.3 -1.9
Hawaii 26.4 29.8 3.4
Idaho 25.6 24.1 -1.5
Illinois 25.5 24.6 -0.9
Indiana 23 23.2 0.2
Iowa 19.5 18.4 -1.1
Kansas 22.3 22.9 0.6
Kentucky 30.4 30.7 0.3
Louisiana 34.5 28 -6.5
Maine 21.4 22.6 1.2
Maryland 25.4 26 0.6
Massachusetts 24.3 25.9 1.6
Michigan 27 24.7 -2.3
Minnesota 22.1 19.6 -2.5
Mississippi 34.8 30.7 -4.1
Missouri 26.6 24.1 -2.5
Montana 23.3 21.4 -1.9
Nebraska 20.2 21.1 0.9
Nevada 26.9 24.3 -2.6
New Hampshire 19.6 18.3 -1.3
New Jersey 25.8 27.4 1.6
New Mexico 30.4 29.5 -0.9
New York 28.6 26.8 -1.8
North Carolina 28.5 26.8 -1.7
North Dakota 22.5 20.4 -2.1
Ohio 26.1 24.8 -1.3
Oklahoma 27.7 24.9 -2.8
Oregon 25.5 27.2 1.7
Pennsylvania 25 24.8 -0.2
Rhode Island 22.9 23.3 0.4
South Carolina 28.9 28.1 -0.8
South Dakota 23.2 21.4 -1.8
Tennessee 29.2 28.6 -0.6
Texas 31 29.4 -1.6
Utah 22 25.3 3.3
Vermont 24.6 20.3 -4.3
Virginia 27.8 26.9 -0.9
Washington 25.5 23.9 -1.6
West Virginia 29.3 29.8 0.5
Wisconsin 21.6 21.4 -0.2
Wyoming 25.1 25.6 0.5
Puerto Rico 51 45 -6
UNITED STATES 26.9 26.1 -0.8

Source: Census Bureau, American Community Survey.