Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What is the life expectancy in your county, and how does it compare? New study tells you

The average life expectancy in some U.S. counties is the same as in some of the healthiest countries in the world, but in others -- mostly rural counties in the deep South, Central Appalachia and Western Native American reservations -- average life expectancy is lower than in some of the world's poorest countries, according to a new study by the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. An interactive map of county life expectancy data can be found here; a static image appears below.
Life expectancy, 2009; dark green counties had the highest, red the lowest
The researchers used death records from 1989 to 2009 to track life expectancy by age, gender and race, when possible. They found huge disparities, even within single states, reports Kristi Nelson of the Knoxville News Sentinel. Researcher Ali Mokdad said data show that counties where people have less money and less education have lower life expectancies. He said the study is "a wake-up call for everyone in the U.S." because more than 16 percent of the gross domestic product is spent on health care, more than in other countries with longer life expectancies. He said the biggest reasons for disparities among counties are "preventable causes of death," including tobacco and alcohol abuse, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.

The study revealed some notable trends. African Americans are living longer than before, but mainly  in urban areas, and are still living shorter lives than white people in most places. In 661 counties, women's life expectancies have stayed the same or decreased since 1989, but that is true for men in only 166 counties. (Read more)

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