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 4% of Essex County residents under 65 in 2020 lacked health insurance, similar to the state but far below the national rate of 10%. 

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 (20% of adults and 16% 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, 35 per 100,000 residents, was lower than the national rate of 30 per 100,000. 

State data on treatment admissions shows that though substance use remains a problem, treatment may be less available. Essex County had 87 admissions to treatment per 10,000 residents in 2021, down 46% from 2018. The decline began in 2019 and accelerated in 2020 when the COVID pandemic began. In both Essex County and the state, heroin and opioids were the most common primary drug, making up nearly half of all admissions.

In other areas of behavioral health and general health, Essex County more closely mirrors other areas:

  • About 15% of adults smoke.
  • About 4.8% report suffering from mental illness.
  • The suicide rate of 0.7 deaths per 10,000 residents reflects an increase from 53 in 2000 to 62 in 2020, below the peak of 93 per 10,000 in 2017.
  • About 63% of adults and 35% of children were overweight or obese.
  • The overall mortality rate has been declining, falling 3% since 2000.
  • The rate of new cancers was 46 per 10,000 and similar to the state, nation and 2 of the three comparison counties. 

Essex County had a relatively high rate of newly identified diabetes cases of 60 per 10,000 in 2019, higher than the state and two of the three comparison counties.