Since the Great Recession we’ve heard a lot about the rising inequality of wealth in the U.S. – we’re becoming a country of haves and have nots.
Another, lesser reported facet of this is an increasing gap in life expectancy in the U.S. A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at county level mortality data from 1980 – 2014. The study found that ” inequalities in life expectancy among counties are large and growing, and much of the variation in life expectancy can be explained by differences in socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.”
The gap between the highest and lowest life expectancy counties is enormous: 20.1 years. The longest life expectancy counties were around 87 years of age vs. 67 years of age for the lowest.
The counties with the longest life expectancy are well-off and highly educated places like Marin County, CA and Summit County, CO. The lowest life expectancy counties are poorer and less educated. Many are in the South and lowest are in the Dakotas.
The life expectancy gap between the lowest and highest counties has increased by about 2 years since 1980. The potential causes for the increasing gap are complicated but it appears that the counties with the lowest life spans have made scant progress fighting significant health problems such as smoking and obesity. The opioid crisis tends to hit those counties harder as well.
Link to interactive chart where you can see your county stats: https://vizhub.healthdata.org/subnational/usa