Life expectancy in U.S. varies from state to state

Teresa Tanoos's picture
American's life expectancy varies from state to state
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In America, how long people live varies from state to state, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The report breaks down healthy life-expectancy (HLE) by state, with Hawaii topping the list and Southern states hovering at the bottom.

The CDC estimated the expected number of years lived in each state by using data about mortality, morbidity and health status for people, beginning at age 65. Such estimates are used worldwide to predict future health service needs, as well as to identify trends or inequalities in each country.

In the U.S., very few studies have broken down healthy life-expectancy rates on a state-by-state basis until now, and it varies by sex and race.

For example, healthy life-expectancy estimates for males at 65 years ranged from a low in Mississippi of 10.1 years, to a high in Hawaii of 15 years. However, for females, those numbers were 11.4 years in Mississippi and 17.3 years in Hawaii.

According to the report, healthy years lived beyond age 65 were:

1. Higher for females than for males, and

2. Ranged from between 0.7 years in Louisiana, to 3.1 years in the Dakotas.

Healthy life-expectancy for males and females by state, starting at 65, from 2007-2009. Source: CDC
Healthy life-expectancy for males and females by state, starting at 65, from 2007-2009. Source: CDC

As it pertains to variations by race, the CDC admits that "HLE estimates for Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians/Alaska Natives were not presented because sufficient reliable data were not available at the state level."

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But the report does include a state-by-state analysis between blacks and whites, showing that HLE was higher for whites than blacks in nearly every state, except for Nevada and New Mexico. Of all the states, Iowa had the largest difference in HLE between whites and blacks at 7.8 years.

So why are there differences in life expectancy between the states?

According to the CDC, the answer remains largely unknown because it’s impossible to determine why such differences exist. However, the report suggests the following factors may play a role in influencing an individual's health status in later life:

1. Safe and healthy living environments;

2. Healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, proper diet, and not smoking;

3. Receiving clinical preventive services (e.g. vaccines, screenings, blood pressure checks, etc.); and

4. Having access to good health care when needed.

Healthy life-expectancy rates from 2007-2009 were generally lowest in the Southeast and highest in the Southwest, Northeast, Northwest, Florida and Hawaii. Source: CDC
Healthy life-expectancy rates from 2007-2009 were generally lowest in the Southeast and highest in the Southwest, Northeast, Northwest, Florida and Hawaii. Source: CDC

A recent study found that the United States has fallen behind other wealthy nations on the health curve, so it's important to keep track of and understand health trends in different regions in order to improve overall health care in the country.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “State-Specific Healthy Life Expectancy at Age 65 Years - United States, 2007–2009” (published online June 19, 2013).

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