U.S. Shows a Growing Gap in Life Expectancy, Researchers Say

A longevity gap has opened up in the U.S.

A a new study by University of Washington researchers shows a widening divide in life expectancies over the last decade between the nation’s most and least healthy places to live.

As the Los Angeles Times puts it, “In some parts of the United States, men and women are dying younger on average than their counterparts in nations such as Syria, Panama and Vietnam.”

And even though Americans overall are living longer than ever, the Times noted that women in large swaths of the U.S. now are dying younger than they were a generation ago, a trend largely reflecting “the rising toll of smoking and record obesity.” Among the 3,147 U.S. counties, the researchers found that 737 showed declining life expectancy for women over the most recent decade tracked from 1997 to 2007.

What’s more, the U.S. overall has not kept pace internationally. As Time reports, life expectancy gains among Americans in 80 percent of U.S. counties lagged behind the increases recorded by the 10 nations where people live the longest.

In the U.S. overall, women’s life expectancy at birth was 81.3 years in 2007. That ranked 35th worldwide, down from 20th two decades earlier. Women in Holmes County, Miss., showed the nation’s lowest life expectancy, 73.5 years.

For American men, life expectancy at birth in 2007 was 76.7 years. That ranked 24th worldwide, versus 32nd place two decades earlier.

People who die the youngest, according to the report, tend to live in struggling urban communities such as St. Louis and Baltimore, along with poor, mostly rural parts of the South. There also were clusters of low life expectancy in communities in Appalachia and the lower Midwest.

But the study showed that lower income doesn’t necessarily lead to shorter lives. For instance, despite large numbers of immigrants from Latin America and other parts of the world, the life expectancy posted by Los Angeles County was relatively high, possibly because people who immigrate tend to be relatively healthy and, in many cases, have strong social networks.

Among the leaders in U.S. longevity were the affluent counties near Washington, D.C., and in the San Francisco Bay area. Their high life expectancy figures, among the best in the world, were attributed largely to healthy lifestyles and eating habits.

Related Posts:
Obesity, Legacy of Smoking Leave Americans Behind in Life Expectancy
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