Longetivity in the U.S.

An article written by Dennis Thompson of the HealthDay Reporter explores where you live might depend a lot on how long you will live. This information comes from a new study of federal health data.

Between the years of 1980 and 2014 researchers say that the life expectancy for American men and women increased slightly more than five years. Between various U.S. counties, the life span can differ by as much as two decades, according to lead researcher Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.

It is said that some people in the U.S. are living longer than the life expectancy of the best country in the world, and yet some have a life expectancy similar to some of the developing countries in the Middle East, South America or Cuba. This leads us to believe that economic and lifestyle factors appear to account for much of that gap.

In central Colorado, a group of counties that include affluent cities like Aspen and Breckenridge, have the nation’s highest life expectancy. The list is at 86.8 years for Summit County, Pitkin County at 86.5 and Eagle County at 85.9.

Andorra, a tiny country between France and Spain, has had the world’s longest life expectancy at 84.8 years with Iceland the next highest at 83.8 years.

Then you have counties in North and South Dakota with the Native American reservations that had the lowest life expectancy in the U.S. Others with low life expectancy are Southern counties along the lower half of the Mississippi, in eastern Kentucky and southwestern West Virginia. Other areas in 2014 had a life expectancy of 66.8 compared to Sudan at 67.2, India at 66.9 and Iraq at 67.7. In the U.S. overall, the increase for men and women had a combined 5.3 years from 73.8 to 79.1 years.

They credit the main differences between the U.S. counties as economic conditions, health risk factors and quality of health care. About 74% of the difference is credited to physical activity, diabetes, blood pressure, smoking, and obesity. About 60% is from racial makeup.

The findings of this research can be found in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. This does show that an environment that promotes healthy living has more of an impact on how long we will live than the kind of health care available. Those communities that are more walkable, have better access to healthy foods and benefit from strong public health efforts to create an environment that can extend to a person’s life.

Steps that help to improve the health of residents might include bike-share programs, park improvements, community gardens, and farmers’ markets. Create a culture of health so the choice is easy. These policies are more difficult to implement in poorer rural areas with a spread-out population. These changes make a greater impact in a large urban area where a larger number of people have access.

Dr Fredda Branyon