American Geographic Health Gap

Regional Differences in Life Expectancy

When considering life expectancy, numbers are usually quoted at a national basis. For example, the United States has a life expectancy of 78.64 years, currently ranked #33 in the world. Japan, country #1 has a life expectancy of about 83 years, while country #100 has a life expectancy of about 71.5 years. The spread from 1 to 100 is only slightly more than 10 years, which does not seem like much. But what happens when we examine life expectancy on a more localized basis? The findings in the United States may surprise you.

We live as long as the Japanese and as short as the Haitians!
2010 United States Life Expectancy by County
Take a moment to really look at this map and digest this. In the wealthiest healthiest parts of the country, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston and Colorado, Americans live for more than 82 years. But in the South, particularly in the Mississippi River Valley and throughout Appalachia, the average person only lives to about 62.

We saw a gap of just over 10 years in the life expectancies of the top 100 countries. But within the United States, we could be as high as #1 or as low as #155, all depending on geography. These staggering numbers are just another example of how inequality ravages the United States, dividing people not just by race, wealth or education, but also by likelihood of living to see their 80th birthday.

Stay tuned for another post tomorrow that further examines life expectancy and how it relates to other factors.