Where you live may predict how long you live: High rates of poverty and unemployment cut lives short in Mississippi and West Virginia report reveals
- Life expectancy has been steadily declining across the US for the past several years
- Between 2015 and 2017, the average life span dropped from 78.7 to 78.6
- The opioid epidemic and suicides are the suspected culprits
- But age-at-death varies widely from state to state and even county to county
- A new AP report found that areas with high rates of unemployment and poverty had the worst life expectancies
- Americans live longest in Hawaii and have the shortest lives in Mississippi, the report found
Even your lifespan can be local.
Researchers have long said that health disparities are heavily influenced by where you live. New data from the National Center for Health Statistics show just how much your neighborhood can impact the length of your life.
In recent years, the US has seen overall life expectancy decrease, from 78.7 years in 2015 to 78.6 years in 2017.
Experts have pointed to opioid addiction and an increase in suicides as the main reasons.
Behind that national average are American neighborhoods where recently born residents can expect to live much longer, or much shorter, lives.
This photo shows Delbarton, West Virginia. The state eclipses most others in the percentage of people affected by diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It has had the nation’s highest rate of drug overdose deaths for years running (AP)
The Associated Press analyzed life expectancy and demographic data for 65,662 census tracts, which are geographic areas that encompass roughly 4,000 residents.
The AP found that certain demographic qualities – high rates of unemployment, low household income, a concentration of black or Native American residents and low rates of high school education – affected life expectancy in most neighborhoods.
An increase of 10 percentage points in the unemployment rate in a neighborhood translated to a loss of roughly a year and a half of life expectancy, the AP found.
A neighborhood where more adults failed to graduate high school had shorter predicted longevity.
New York state had the largest range for life expectancy among its neighborhoods, spanning 34.5 years. The places with the highest and lowest estimates are both in New York City.
Children born between 2010 and 2015 in part of the northern half of Roosevelt Island have an estimated life expectancy of 59 years; a child born 6 miles away in Chinatown in lower Manhattan can expect to live 93.6 years.
In one North Carolina neighborhood – Fearrington Village in Chatham County – a child born between 2010 and 2015 can expect to live 97.5 years, the highest estimated lifespan for any neighborhood in the US.
A child in part of Stilwell in Adair County, Oklahoma, can expect 59 years on average, the nation’s lowest.
The AP analysis also found discrepancies among states. Life expectancy in Hawaii topped all other states at 82 years. Mississippi’s estimate of 74.9 was the lowest, followed closely by West Virginia , Alabama, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
The AP analyzed 88.7 percent of all U.S. census tracts. Maine and Wisconsin were excluded because some of their death records lacked home addresses of the deceased.
The data is part of a new partnership between the National Center for Health Statistics, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Through the collaboration, researchers used six years of death records and demographic data to create a longevity estimate for nearly every census tract in the country.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.