The life span of Americans declined last year for the first time since World War II. The figure went from 78.8 years to 77.3. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic took most of the blame. However, there remains a substantial number of Americans who live to be over 85. Last year that percentage of the population was 6.7%. Although there is no single reason for this, advances in medical care almost certainly play a role.
Several factors tend to lengthen life spans, including diet and exercise and genetics. There are considerable regional variations in life expectancy across the country as well. To highlight these differences, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the life expectancy at birth in each state. It is important to note that life expectancy figures are averages for the years 2017 through 2019, the most recent period for which state-level data is available, so they are pre-pandemic. States were ranked by the average life expectancy at birth.
Depending on the state, average life expectancy at birth ranges from less than 75 years to over 82. These variations are tied to several economic and behavioral factors. For example, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and in nearly every state where life expectancy at birth is lower than the national average, the share of adults who smoke exceeds the 16.6% national average.
Income levels are also linked to life expectancy. For example, poverty presents challenges and stressors that can take a cumulative toll on both physical and mental health. Additionally, lower-income Americans are less able to afford adequate health care or a range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle. Recent studies have shown that life expectancy among the wealthiest 1% of Americans exceeds that of the poorest 1% by well over a decade. In nearly every state with longer than average life expectancy, the poverty rate is below the 12.3% national average.
The state with the longest life expectancy is Hawaii. Here are the details:
- Life expectancy: 82.3 years
- Adults reporting poor or fair health: 15.4% (18th lowest)
- Adult obesity rate: 24.6% (third lowest)
- Smoking rate: 14.4% (10th lowest)
- Population without health insurance: 4.2% (third lowest)
- Median household income: $83,102 (fourth highest)
- Poverty rate: 9.3% (sixth lowest)
To determine the state with the longest life expectancy, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed life expectancy (the average number of years a person can expect to live) data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program’s 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR) report. While this is from 2021, life expectancy data published in the report are from 2017 to 2019.
Additional information on the share of adults reporting poor or fair health, those who report a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher (adult obesity rate) and those who are current smokers is also from the 2021 CHR. The share of the civilian noninstitutionalized population without health insurance, median household income and poverty rates are one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
Click here to see which states the CDC says have the longest life expectancies.
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