A new report indicates that life expectancy in the United States varies by as high as 20 years depending on one’s county of birth. Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at Washington University undertook the study and revealed the existing disparity in life expectancy from county to county.
Life Expectancy Disparity
The lead author of the study Christopher Murray and team examined death records of people aged between 25 years to 45 years from 1980 to 2014 for all U.S. counties. After gathering the data, researchers analyzed the numbers to determine the average life expectancy in each county.
When calculated together, Murray established that life expectancy showed an increase of 5.3 years — for both women and men — from the previous 73.8 years to 79.1 years. His calculations also revealed that during the 35-year period, life expectancy for men increased from 70 years to 76.7 years and for women it increased from 77.5 years to 81.5 years.
However, when Murray calculated the average life expectancy in individual counties, he discovered a startling disparity. The team concluded that a difference of 20.1 years existed between the U.S. counties having the highest average life expectancy and those having the lowest.
North Dakota and South Dakota were two regions where life expectancy was found to be the lowest, followed by counties along the lower half of Mississippi. Kentucky and parts of West Virginia also displayed lower life expectancy when compared to other regions.
The study revealed that Colorado residents had the highest life expectancy in the entire United States.
Reasons For The Life Expectancy Disparity
The researchers did not elaborate on the reasons behind the disparity. However, it is possible to understand why some counties are more prone to lower life expectancies than others.
“We can see that many of the counties with very low life expectancies in the Dakotas, like Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota, overlap with large Native American reservations including the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations,” Murray observed.
Poverty, lack of proper healthcare, lack of physical exercise, obesity, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, and diabetes were some of the major causes that have led to this disparity. However, the three factors to which the life expectancy disparity from county to county can be attributed are racial ethnicity and socio-economic level, access to healthcare, and metabolic risks.
Socio-economic factors such as education, race, unemployment, and income accounted for 60 percent of the disparity of the life expectancy. Improper metabolic activity such as lack of exercise, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity was responsible for 74 percent of the disparity, while poor health care systems explained 27 percent.
The United States is the leading spender when it comes to healthcare and researchers were astonished to find that the average life expectancy in some counties was as low as 66 years.
The results of the study have been published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
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