Location drives down your life expectancy

Published 7:31 pm Monday, May 8, 2017

Where you live can determine how long you live. That’s the take-away from a study published Monday that shows as much as two decades variation in life expectancy depending on location.

Researchers analyzed life expectancies in every county in the United States from 1980-2014, and the results are shocking. Life expectancy varies by as much as 20 years.

Most of the variation in life expectancy is due to socioeconomic factors, as well as race and health care factors. People in poor counties tend to live shorter lives than those in wealthy counties.

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People in affluent areas tend to live much longer — on average, 20 years longer than people in the Mississippi Delta. For some of those Mississippi counties, the average life expectancy is 66 years.

Lincoln County’s average life expectancy is about 74 years, according to the data. It’s on par with the counties surrounding it.

At the top end of the scale are counties in Colorado and California at about 87 years. That’s 13 years long than residents in Lincoln County.

In most of the country, life expectancy has increased — on average, about five years — since 1980. But some counties saw very little, if any, improvement.

The study points out that the magnitude of disparities among rich and poor counties demands action. If recent trends continue, that disparity will only increase.

Policies and programs that target the socioeconomic and behavioral factors could help reduce that disparity, but that will require significant financial investments.

The study is a good first step in identifying the problem. The next step — finding a solution — will be much more difficult.