While the United States has seen an increase in life expectancy over the last several decades, that trend is reversing, partially due to the lack of health insurance, accessibility to health care, and our sedentary lifestyles.
Population Health Metrics published its newest study titled, “Falling Behind: Life Expectancy in U.S. Counties.” From 2000 To 2007 in an International Context.” Using newly released mortality data by age, sex, and county for the U.S. from 2000 to 2007, they were able to compute life tables separately for each sex, for all races combined, for whites, and for blacks.
Life expectancy, across the United States, ranged from 65.9 to 81.1 years for men and 73.5 to 86.0 years for women. Life expectancy for black men ranged from 59.4 to 77.2 years; for black women, the range was 69.6 to 82.6 years. Average overall life expectancy is 73.5 years for men and 80.8 years for women.
According to the report, the US has extremely large geographic and racial disparities, with some communities having life expectancies already well behind those of the best-performing nations. At the same time, relative performance for most communities continues to drop.
Geographically, the lowest life expectancies for both sexes were in counties in Appalachia and the Deep South, extending across northern Texas. Counties with the highest life expectancies tended to be in the northern Plains and along the Pacific coast and the Eastern Seaboard, with longevity being highest in the states of Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, California, Washington and Florida.
Despite having the largest spending per capita on health care, the U.S. is outperformed by many industrialized nations. National life expectancy was lower than the international frontier by 3.2 years.
The study addressed the poor performance of the United States, suggesting that health care reform could help to improve these statistics. Given that the reform debate centers on three strategies—extend insurance to all, improve the quality of medical care, and focus on preventable causes of death—there is hope on the horizon.