How a Fat Paycheck Can Buy You 20 More Years of Life

Wealthier American Live Longer

Yesterday I wrote about how Americans in some parts of the country live for 82 years, while in other parts only live for about 62 years, if you need a refresher check out my post here. Today I plan on overlaying life expectancy statistics with those of other factors such as income and obesity. I will start by showing the change in life expectancy over time.

1985 Life Expectancy
2010 Life Expectancy
The first thing that I want to point out is the dramatic change in the map between 1985 and 2010, sort of. In almost every area of the country, life expectancy rose by over ten years during this period. But now focus on Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana and notice that these numbers barely budged. In a few counties in these states, life expectancy actually declined in the 25 year period.

Obesity statistics are not as widely available for the whole country dating back to 1985, but even the following map from 2010 should be telling.

American Obesity by County 2010
Notice that the three states with the lowest life expectancies are also the states shown in the darkest red coloring on this new map. In red counties, more than a third of adults are obese; if we include people who are simply overweight this number approaches 70%. It appears that obesity does directly relate to shorter life expectancies. America has become more obese over time and much of the increase has been concentrated in the south. It seems as though some of the gains in medical technologies nationwide are being offset in the south by increasing obesity rates.

Finally let's examine income. This map is from 2008 and shows median income by county. I think you will notice a trend here.

2008 Median Income by County
Once again it appears clear that there is an almost direct relationship between higher incomes and longer life. Almost all of the counties with life expectancies below 70 in the United States fall below average on the median income scale. 

One way to tie all of this together is the fact that it is much cheaper to buy unhealthy food than healthy food. People living on lower incomes are more likely to eat cheaper and thus less healthy which in turn can correlate with a spike in obesity. If you want to learn more about obesity and food access, check out this link.

To continue this series on health, I will further investigate medical costs and differences within healthcare itself and report back tomorrow with more information.