Life expectancy in U.S. counties varies by as much as 20 years and the disparities have been increasing, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine has found.
Between 1980 and 2014, U.S. life expectancy at birth increasedby 5.3 years, on average—from 73.8 to 79.1 years, but that average “masks massive variation at the county level.” Many counties in Colorado, Alaska, and along both coasts had increases in life expectancy of 8 to 13 years, while some counties in Southern statesstretching from Oklahoma to West Virginia saw little or no improvement or even had reductions.
Geographic inequality in life expectancy between the 1st and 99th percentile of counties increased from 8.3 years in 1980 to 10.7 years in 2014.
Most of the disparities can be attributed to socioeconomic and racial/ethnic factors (such as poverty, less education, and unemployment), as well as behavioral and metabolic risk factors (such as obesity, smoking, inactivity, hypertension, and diabetes), according to the researchers.
The lowest life expectancies seen in parts of the U.S. are comparable to those in many developing countries, while the highest life expectancies seen in other parts of the U.S. match those seen in the world's longest-lived countries.
Also see 'Geographic Inequality' in Heart Health.