The average U.S. life expectancy has hit its worst decline in 100 years and America’s standing is dismal among peer nations. But the average obscures a more complex story. The United States is facing the greatest divide in life expectancy across regions in the last 40 years. Research from American Inequality found that Americans born in certain areas of Mississippi and Florida may die 20 years younger than their peers born in parts of Colorado and California.
The decline is not occurring equally throughout the country. In the land of opportunity, millions of people are not even given a fair shot at life.
America is facing 20 year gap in life expectancy across the country
Credit to Jeremy Ney @ AmericanInequality
America is unique among wealthy countries when it comes to how young people die, and the trend is only getting worse. From 2019 to 2020, U.S. life expectancy declined by almost 2 years according to the Center Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the worst two-year decline since 1921-1923. When Covid hit, America experienced a larger decline in life expectancy than any other wealthy country. Life expectancy in America is now 76 years.
What is driving the differences in who lives and who dies in America? The answer is wealth, demographics, and location.
State policies tremendously influence life expectancy. Income support, medicaid expansion, stronger gun control, drug overdose prevention, and safe abortion access are among the drivers of regional divides in life expectancy. Overdoses kill more than 100,000 people each year. Guns kill more people than cars do. But digging into communities shed light on the country’s biggest issues.
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Wealthier Americans live longer
Income is a major driver of higher life expectancies. In the wealthiest regions like Aspen, Colorado and Santa Clara, California, median household incomes reach the hundreds of thousands of dollars and Americans live to 87 on average, the highest in the country. But in poorer regions like or Owsley County, Kentucky or Union County, Florida, the median household income is $35,000 and life expectancy floats around 67 on average, the lowest in the country.
Our research has found a painfully high correlation between household income and life expectancy.
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Poverty in America is not about income alone. Low-income communities, regardless of the state, are more likely to struggle with access to affordable healthcare; they are more likely to live near toxic sites and develop lung cancer; they are more likely to live in food deserts and wrestle with illnesses like heart disease and obesity; and they are more likely to die younger from drug overdoses.
Adequately addressing inequality in life expectancy requires looking across factors and working to improve these challenges for communities.
Black communities die younger
Thomas McGuire, professor of health economics at Harvard Medical School, explained, “In terms of health, there’s approximately a five-year penalty for being African-American compared to being a White male.”
Black Americans in every state have lower life expectancies than their White peers by 4 years on average. This is largely due to the lower-quality care that Black communities receive for conditions like cancer, heart problems, pneumonia, pain management, prenatal and maternal health, and overall preventive health.
Pemiscot County, Missouri represents this gap most clearly as it has one of the lowest Black life expectancies in America. In Pemiscot, Black residents die at 64 on average, effectively meaning that they will work until they die. 1 in 4 residents in Pemiscot is Black. Pemiscot has one public hospital that almost closed in 2013 and it’s one of the poorest counties in Missouri.
State policies make a big difference
States in the Deep South have lower life expectancies than states north of the Mason-Dixon line. These five factors may be the reasons why the residents of some states live far longer.
1. Expanding the EITC and CTC: More money means more time alive, and certain programs which put cash directly into low-income homes have improved life expectancy. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) federally have been some of America’s most successful poverty alleviation programs, but 11 states have enacted their own CTC programs and 31 states have implemented their own EITC programs, putting more cash into the most needy homes. Residents in states that have adopted both the EITC and CTC tend to live 2 years longer than states which have implemented neither. This may even be more cost effective at increasing life expectancy than many other policies. These programs are designed to support children, too.
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2. Medicaid Expansion: States that expanded Medicaid saved more than 200 lives per every 100,000 people and decreased the risk of premature death by roughly 50% for older adults who gained coverage. As Nobel-Prize wining economist Paul Krugman explained, “Some of the poorest states in America, with the lowest life expectancy, are still refusing to expand Medicaid even though the federal government would cover the bulk of the cost.” Such individuals in turn are therefore at the mercy of policies that differ state to state.
3. Gun Control: Stronger gun control measures in states also improve life expectancy. The South, which has some of the most lenient gun control measures, lost 5.7 million years of life expectancy in the period 2009-2018 from firearm related deaths. Conversely, Northeastern states, which tend to have much stronger gun control measures like background checks and secure storage laws, had one-fifth the loss in life expectancy. Guns are now the #1 killer of children in America and 1 in 25 American 5-year olds now won’t live to see 40, largely due to guns. If we stopped these deaths, it would effectively add 3 years of life to every 5-year old in the South.
4. Drug Overdose Prevention: States that introduced policies to prevent drug overdose deaths saw life expectancies increase by 11%. The CDC estimates that half of all the unintentional deaths last year that took people’s lives too early were attributed to drug overdoses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Naloxone to be sold over the counter at pharmacies, which could help close the state-by-state gap. In the meantime, McDowell County, West Virginia has one of the lowest life expectancies in the country and has the highest rate of opioid overdoses in the country.
5. Abortion Access: Lastly, while the data has not fully revealed the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, this decision may drive further divides in life expectancy for Southern states that have in turn limited abortion access. Arkansas has a maternal mortality rate that is 50% higher than the national average. In Mississippi, it is 75x more dangerous for women to carry a pregnancy to term than to have an abortion due to poor healthcare. Mississippi has the lowest life expectancy in America at 71. Causing more women to carry a pregnancy to term may increase deaths of mothers in their 20s-40s.
The 20-year gap in life expectancy across regions tells story of America. The divide is deeply interwoven with healthcare, housing, race, gender, location, education, and more. But improving life expectancy across regions in possible and it starts with state legislatures. States can learn from each other about what has worked best and implement new policies with proven effectiveness. Data will be the driving force for finding patterns of inequality and leading change-makers towards solutions that engender equality.
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Why is US life expectancy lower than other countries? ›
The social determinants of health likely explain a lot of these disparities. For example, those with the shortest life expectancies in the US tend to have the most poverty, face the most food insecurity, and have less or no access to healthcare, all factors that contribute to lower life expectancy.How does life expectancy in the US compare to other countries? ›
U.S. life expectancy was slightly above the global average of seventy-three years in 2020. (Japan's was the highest, at eighty-five years, and the Central African Republic's the lowest, at fifty-four.) Still, many countries that are poorer than the United States have higher life expectancies.How long do most Americans live? ›
From 2020 to 2021, life expectancy at birth began to rebound in most comparable countries while it continued to decline in the U.S. The CDC estimates life expectancy at birth in the U.S. decreased to 76.1 years in 2021, down 2.7 years from 78.8 years in 2019 and down 0.9 years from 2020.What is the life expectancy in the US 2023? ›
April 13, 2023 – U.S. life expectancy has declined to 76.4 years, the shortest it's been in nearly two decades, according to December data from the CDC.When did America start declining? ›
According to American public intellectual Noam Chomsky, America's decline started shortly after the end of World War II, with the "loss of China" followed by the Indochina Wars. By 1970, the United States' share of world wealth had declined to about 25%, which was still large but sharply reduced.How unhealthy is America compared to other countries? ›
Many people find it hard to believe the U.S. performs poorly on most measures of health compared to other high-income countries. But the truth is, study after study supports the same two conclusions: The U.S. spends more on health care but has worse health outcomes than comparable countries around the globe.What country lives longest? ›
1. Monaco. One of the smallest countries in the world, Monaco also has the UN's longest estimated life expectancy of any country as of 2023. Males in Monaco are expected to live an average of 85.17 years, and females are expected to live an even longer 88.99 years, for an overall average of 87.01 years.What country has lowest life expectancy? ›
- Lesotho (55)
- Central African Republic (55)
- South Sudan (57)
- Somalia (57)
- Eswatini (58)
- Namibia (60)
- Guinea (60)
- Mali (60)
Consider the Average Life Expectancy
And if she makes it to age 70, her life expectancy increases to 87.6 years. A man the same age has an average life expectancy of 84.1 years. Read: What Is the Average Retirement Age?
The study, supported by the American Insurance Group, found that, on average, a 75-year-old American woman with no chronic conditions will live 17.3 additional years (that's to more than 92 years old).
What nationality lives the longest in America? ›
Asian Americans enjoy the longest life expectancy of any racial or ethnic group (87.3 years) in the U.S. today. Latinos enjoy the 2nd longest life expectancy of any racial or ethnic groups in the U.S. today. They live, on average to 83.5 years.How old does the average US citizen live? ›
|Country||Life expectancy males||Life expectancy females|
|Uruguay||74.7 years||81.9 years|
|Albania||74.6 years||79.7 years|
|United States||74.5 years||80.2 years|
|Estonia||74.2 years||82.7 years|
U.S. life expectancy at birth
On average, a person living in the U.S. can expect to live to 76.1 years. Asian people have the longest average life expectancy (83.5 years) and American Indian/Alaska Natives the shortest (65.2 years).
Overall, life expectancy at birth in Hawaii, Washington, California, and New York (state) are among the longest in the nation, while life expectancy at birth in Mississippi, American Samoa, and West Virginia are among the shortest in the nation.What are the chances of living to 90? ›
At the end of the study, about 16 percent of the men and about 34 percent of the women survived to the age of 90. In fact, the authors found that women who were taller than 5 feet 9 inches were 31 percent more likely to reach 90, compared to those who were under 5 feet 3 inches.What is the biggest crisis of the American history? ›
The Great Depression of 1929–39
The Depression lasted almost 10 years and resulted in massive loss of income, record unemployment rates, and output loss, especially in industrialized nations. In the United States the unemployment rate hit almost 25 percent at the peak of the crisis in 1933.
Ironically, it was World War II, which had arisen in part out of the Great Depression, that finally pulled the United States out of its decade-long economic crisis.What is causing the aging of America? ›
Americans are having fewer children and the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s has yet to be repeated. Fewer babies, coupled with longer life expectancy equals a country that ages faster. Although declining fertility plays a role, the driving force behind America's aging is the baby boomers.What country eats the healthiest? ›
The Nordic Diet is inspired by the cultures of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The diet focuses on consuming high amounts of protein and fibre. Staples of the diet include fish, berries, whole grain cereals, low fat dairy products, root vegetables, and rapeseed oil.What is the healthiest state in the US? ›
What diet has the longest life expectancy? ›
A Mediterranean diet remains one of the gold standards for living longer and more healthfully. This pattern is characterized by a high intake of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; pulses; healthful fats from nuts, olive oil, and avocado; and herbs and spices. It includes seafood a few times a week.Who are the healthiest people in the world? ›
Italy is the world's healthiest country, according to the CEOWORLD magazine ranking that uses data from the United Nations Population Division, the World Bank, the Lancet study, and the World Health Organisation, with Singapore coming at a close second.Why do Italians live so long? ›
As the renowned medical journal Lancet points out, eating habits play a key role when it comes to Italians and longevity. A large part of the population can easily bring fresh and healthy food to the table, regardless of social status and income. This is what makes the difference.
A 2021 study on Occupation-Based Life Expectancy found that people working in non-skilled general, technical and transport domains lived on average 3.5 years less than those in academic professions. Those working in the transport sector had the shortest life expectancy, and teachers had the longest.What is the average age of death for a woman? ›
Women's life expectancy was 79 years in the U.S. in 2021, while men's was about 73, according to CDC data.Why do Japanese people live longer? ›
Japanese life expectancy
This low mortality is mainly attributable to a low rate of obesity, low consumption of red meat, and high consumption of fish and plant foods such as soybeans and tea. In Japan, the obesity rate is low (4.8% for men and 3.7% for women).
Mother's life span determines how long daughters will live, how healthy they will be.What age is considered elderly? ›
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines an “older adult” as someone who is at least 60 years old. Many states may also have different definitions of “elderly” when determining what resources are available in cases of elder abuse, although most states commonly use 65 years of age as the cut-off.What happens to your body at age 70? ›
What's happening. With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination, stability and balance.Does alcohol increase lifespan? ›
The results also showed that male modest drinkers gain 0.94 years (95% CI 0.65–1.23 years) and male modest drinkers who were never smokers gain 3.97 years (95% CI 3.65–4.29 years) compared to non-drinker. It appears that a little drinking could be better than none.
What are the odds of living to 80? ›
Finally, children born today will live longer than any other generation. About two-thirds will live past 80, and one-third past 90. Almost one in 10 girls born now will live past 100.Do older people need more sleep? ›
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger. There are many reasons why older people may not get enough sleep at night.What's the healthiest race? ›
Despite a struggling economy and high unemployment, Italians are the world's healthiest people. Ahead of the curve.Who lives longer white or hispanic? ›
Hispanics exhibit lower lifespan variance ( σ 10 2 = 205.6 ) compared with whites ( σ 10 2 = 221.5 ) in addition to higher life expectancy (e10 = 72.7 years among Hispanics, and e10 = 69.4 years among whites).What city in the US has the highest life expectancy? ›
Loma Linda is a city in southern California of less than 25,000 people.How long will an 80 year old live? ›
The average life expectancy in the United States is 9.1 years for 80-year-old white women and 7.0 years for 80-year-old white men. Conclusions: For people 80 years old or older, life expectancy is greater in the United States than it is in Sweden, France, England, and Japan.How old do most men live? ›
Male: 76.1 years - Average life expectancy of a US male (at birth). Female: 81.1 years - Average life expectancy of a US female (at birth).How long can a 77 year old man expect to live? ›
|Age||Life Expectancy-Male||Life Expectancy-Female|
- Sardinia, Italy. A largely plant-based diet, daily physical activity and familial closeness have given this Blue Zone the highest concentration of male centenarians in the world. ...
- Okinawa, Japan. ...
- Nicoya, Costa Rica. ...
- Loma Linda, Calif., U.S.A. ...
- Ikaria, Greece.
U.S. Hispanics tend to defy the odds: They outlive non-Hispanic whites by three years on average, despite having lower income and education levels. In 2014, life expectancy at birth for the U.S. Hispanic population was 81.8 years, compared with 78.8 years for the U.S. non-Hispanic white population.
How long do whites live? ›
Life expectancy for white Americans (76.4 years) is longer than that of Black Americans (70.8 years); until this most recent report, this gap had been narrowing.What blood type has the longest life expectancy? ›
Chances are higher you'll live longer if you have type O blood. Experts think your lowered risk of disease in your heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease) may be one reason for this.What state do seniors live the longest? ›
People in Hawaii, Washington, and Minnesota have the longest life expectancy in the country, according to a new study. A NiceRx study released Thursday found that Hawaii has the longest life expectancy of all 50 states at 80.7 years in 2020.How can I increase my life expectancy? ›
- Get moving.
- Eat a healthy diet. Get tips at ChooseMyPlate.gov (USDA)
- Pay attention to weight and shape.
- Don't smoke or use tobacco.
- Keep your brain active.
- Be good to yourself.
- Get regular medical checkups.
- Drink only in moderation if you drink alcohol.
43 percent of people worldwide now live into their seventies, up from 33 percent twenty years ago. But just because we're living longer doesn't mean we're living better.How does it feel to be 80 years old? ›
Esty found that most 80-year-olds experience less anger, worry and stress than they did in past decades. Through time and experience, people in their 80s have already experienced loss and other difficult situations and learned to cope better than other age groups.How many 80 year olds make it to 90? ›
If you are an 80 year old man, your long-term odds are not great. There is a 30% chance of making it to your 90th birthday, and only about 14 in 1,000 will see 100.Why does the United States have a longer life expectancy? ›
Most of the improvements in life expectancy have resulted from reductions in infectious diseases among infants and children. The decline in mortality rates for these major killers has been attributed to improvements in public health efforts, medical technologies, and standards of living and hygiene.Why does Canada have a higher life expectancy than the US? ›
He said, "Canada and the US share a common border and enjoy very similar standards of living, yet life expectancy in Canada is higher than in the US. There are two distinct potential explanations for the gap: differences in access to health care and in the prevalence of poverty."What countries have higher life expectancy than US? ›
|#||Country||Life Expectancy (both sexes)|
Which country has a greater life expectancy than the United States? ›
1. Monaco. One of the smallest countries in the world, Monaco also has the UN's longest estimated life expectancy of any country as of 2023. Males in Monaco are expected to live an average of 85.17 years, and females are expected to live an even longer 88.99 years, for an overall average of 87.01 years.Which race lives the longest? ›
On average, a person living in the U.S. can expect to live to 76.1 years. Asian people have the longest average life expectancy (83.5 years) and American Indian/Alaska Natives the shortest (65.2 years).Why is the life expectancy so low in America? ›
Deaths by suicide and from liver disease, or cirrhosis, caused by alcohol also increased — shortening the average American life span. "The majority of those deaths are to younger people, and deaths to younger people affect the overall life expectancy more than deaths to the elderly," Kochanek says.Does Canada have a higher quality of life than US? ›
Yes. Canada is often at the top of the list of the best countries to live in. The country is typically praised for its affordability, access to education and health, political stability, individual freedom and environmental protection.Are people in Canada healthier than the US? ›
In conclusion, population health, HRQL, life expectancy, and HALE in Canada compare favorably to the United States. The difference in health between the two countries seems to be associated with substantial differences in access to care as well as substantial differences in social and economic inequality.What country has the highest life expectancy answer? ›
The correct answer is Option. Japan has the maximum life expectancy which is at 83.7 years.
|Rank||Countries/Districts||Quality of life index by country|
The study, supported by the American Insurance Group, found that, on average, a 75-year-old American woman with no chronic conditions will live 17.3 additional years (that's to more than 92 years old).How long does the average woman live? ›
Life expectancy for men and women
A male child born in the United States today will live to be 74.5 years old on average. This puts the male citizens of the US in 47th place in this ranking. On average, US women are 5.7 years older, reaching an age of 80.2.
The researchers found that men and women in the United States lived 2.2 fewer years than residents in similar countries. American men and women could only look forward to a life expectancy of 76.4 and 81.2 years, respectively, compared with the 78.6 and 83.4 years of their peers abroad.