Nevada Quality of Life Ranks Low

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Nevada's quality of life is among the nation's worst, with high rates of child abuse and elderly suicide and low rates of high school completion and health insurance coverage, a study says.

The study, "Social Health of the States 2003," ranked the state 46th out of 50 and gave it F's in half of 16 areas examined.

Released by the nonprofit Fordham Institute, the study called Nevada a "social recession state," using economic terms to describe social quality of life.

Marc Miringoff, director for the Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy, publisher of the study, said it paints a picture of Nevada that differs from the boom town often portrayed.

"You have a business section of the newspaper, but you don't have a social section - and so the good news in recent years from Nevada is only telling part of the picture," Miringoff said.

The study uses federal data to show that Nevada ranked in the bottom ten nationwide in half of the indicators measured - health insurance coverage, child abuse, teenage suicide, teenage drug abuse, high school completion, food stamp coverage, homicides and elderly suicide.

Asked about the results, University of Nevada, Las Vegas sociology Professor Bob Parker said, "This is the down side that people don't talk about regarding the economic miracle here."

The study said that three indicators - child poverty, high school completion and health insurance coverage - are particularly telling when it comes to a state's social health.

Though Nevada ranked 24th in the country when it came to children in poverty, the state fared poorly in the other two categories.

Only 78 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds who weren't in school during the 1998- 2000 period had earned high school diplomas, ranking the state second to last nationwide in that category.

One of five people under 65 lacked health insurance in the 1999-2000 period, ranking the state 41st.

Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said that the state's ranking for insurance coverage "is appalling."

"This makes a major impact on people's lives ... and leads to adverse health outcomes and even death," Buckley said, adding that many of the indicators in the study can only be improved if the state spends more money on social service programs.