These Are The 10 Unhealthiest Cities In South Carolina


We used science and data to determine which SC cities have the biggest health concerns.

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This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out.

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There’s been a lot of talk about the environment over the last decade, as cities are scrambling to clean up their act, and citizens are more vocal than ever about being healthier. Sure, we can eat better, quit smoking and cut fat out of our diets.

But, in the big picture, to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s not always as simple as changing personal choices on the minute level. The place you live might be dirtier than you can imagine. And for the South Carolina cities below, that’s certainly the case.

Taking into account the local environment, as well as the habits of residents, these are the 10 unhealthiest cities in South Carolina:

  1. Hanahan
  2. Goose Creek
  3. Bennettsville
  4. Moncks Corner
  5. Myrtle Beach
  6. Socastee
  7. Greenville
  8. Cayce
  9. Darlington
  10. Spartanburg

And to be clear, we didn’t form this list based on our own biases — we relied on the cold hard data. For more on how we ran the numbers, keep on reading. Then we’ll take a closer look at each of our top 10 unhealthiest cities.

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How do you determine how unhealthy a city is?

In order to rank the unhealthiest cities in South Carolina, we had to determine what criteria makes a city unhealthier than others.

The environmental factors

  • Air quality
  • Water quality
  • Superfund number (ground contamination)

The human factors

  • Number of available doctors
  • Obesity rates
  • Smoking rates
  • Binge drinking rates

We used reports from the Environmental Protection Agency for the environmental factors, and received our human factors from surveys done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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1. Hanahan

Hanahan, SC

Population: 18,502
Environmental grade: C-
Smoking rate: 23%
Obesity rate: 37%
Binge drinking rate: 16%

Little Hanahan is a city in Berkeley County, just outside of Charleston. Unfortunately, this is the unhealthiest place in the state of South Carolina.

The air quality here is tied for the lowest in the state. It was given a 1 by the EPA (100 is the highest score you can get). Other environmental factors that hurt Hanahan: Bad water quality and a below average score in soil contamination.

Hanahan is also top 4 in every human factor – smoking, obesity and binge drinking in the state.

2. Goose Creek

Goose Creek, SC

Population: 36,536
Environmental grade: C-
Smoking rate: 23%
Obesity rate: 37%
Binge drinking rate: 16%

Goose Creek is right next to Hanahan, and all factors were the same, except that the water quality is a smudge better here.

Most of the Naval Weapons Station Charleston is in Goose Creek, which might be the reason the environmental health levels are so bad. This was the loadout base for all nuclear ballistic missile submarines during the Cold War.

3. Bennettsville

Bennettsville, SC

Population: 9,088
Environmental grade: F
Smoking rate: 23%
Obesity rate: 40%
Binge drinking rate: 12%

Little Bennettsville is way up near the North Carolina state line on Route 15 in Marlborough County. This was once one of the center points for cotton production in the entire south.

Bennettsville scored the lowest in water quality and soil quality. In fact, the superfund number here is the lowest in the state, meaning the soil is contaminated the worst of all. The air quality is pretty good.

Obesity is the largest unhealthy human factor, as well as lack of doctors. Only one other area in the state (Williamsburg County – 43%) has most obese residents than Marlborough County.

4. Moncks Corner

Moncks Corner, SC

Population: 8,053
Environmental grade: C-
Smoking rate: 23%
Obesity rate: 37%
Binge drinking rate: 16%

Berkeley County is a very unhealthy place. This is the 3rd city from this county in the top 10. This is the entire region just north of Charleston.

Moncks Corner’s soil is actually pretty good, but the number of doctors per capita here is one of the lowest rates in South Carolina.

5. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, SC

Population: 27,433
Environmental grade: C
Smoking rate: 25%
Obesity rate: 28%
Binge drinking rate: 17%

Myrtle Beach is plagued by unhealthy human factors. 1 in 4 adults here smokes, and the binge drinking rate is the 4th highest in the state. (The highest drinking rate in the state is in Charleston, where 23% of residents claims to binge drink.)

In terms of the environment, Myrtle Beach water is rated very poor, as is the quality of the air.

6. Socastee

Socastee, SC

Population: 19,338
Environmental grade: C
Smoking rate: 25%
Obesity rate: 27%
Binge drinking rate: 15%

Socastee is a CDP right outside of Myrtle Beach. They have the exact same environmental numbers, meaning the air and water quality here are really bad.

The only difference – Socastee residents are slightly less obese and drink slightly less than those in Myrtle Beach.

This area was a center point for the production of turpentine and tar in the 1870s.

7. Greenville

Greenville, SC

Population: 60,483
Environmental grade: D
Smoking rate: 20%
Obesity rate: 30%
Binge drinking rate: 13%

Greenville is the largest city to make this list, meaning it has the most unhealthy residents of any city in South Carolina.

The EPA gives Greenville a really low score, environmentally. The soil here is just about as contaminated as it gets in the state, and the water and air are also in the bottom 20% as well.

Human factors moved Greenville down the rankings a bit. ‘Only’ 1 in 5 adults smokes, and ‘only’ 3 in 10 are considered obese.

8. Cayce

Cayce, SC

Population: 12,583
Environmental grade: C-
Smoking rate: 20%
Obesity rate: 30%
Binge drinking rate: 15%

Cayce is a smallish city just outside of Columbia. The superfund number for Cayce is a ‘1’, meaning the soil is considered as bad as you can get. Cayce is home to SCANA, the parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, Carolina Gas Transmission, PSNC Energy and other subsidiaries operating in the Southeastern United States.

9. Darlington

Darlington, SC

Population: 7,829
Environmental grade: C
Smoking rate: 24%
Obesity rate: 34%
Binge drinking rate: 10%

Home of the famous Darlington Raceway, the area around Darlington is bad, but not as contaminated as the cities mentioned above. The biggest problem here is the water quality and number of doctors in the area.

Folks in Darlington are also dying a slow death when you look at their personal habits. More than 1 in 3 is obese, and just about 1 out of 4 continues to smoke, despite an overall decline in smoking rates across the nation.

10. Spartanburg

Spartanburg, SC

Population: 37,443
Environmental grade: C
Smoking rate: 20%
Obesity rate: 29%
Binge drinking rate: 12%

The water in Spartanburg is actually the worst in the state. The numerous waterways that bisect that area were a key component of the cotton and manufacturing industries in the 1800s. Many mills are abandoned in the area, but remain along the riverbanks, almost like Gothic ruins dotting the landscape.

Human factors like smoking and poor eating are a concern here. The good news – Spartanburg County’s health care is provided by the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, which is considered a top notch system.

There You Have It

If you’re looking at which of South Carolina’s cities have the worst environmental scores, and where residents have the unhealthiest habits, this is a fair list.

Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.

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