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Big Gaps in Life Expectancy Among States

Hawaii has the highest, and Mississippi the lowest, study finds

An elder couple embraces while looking at the ocean

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Where you live actually influences your life expectancy.

Where you live in the United States can be a rough indicator of how long you might be expected to live.

In a recent study of mortality rates from 1990 to 2016, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hawaii was found to have the highest life expectancy (81.3 years) and Mississippi the lowest (74.7 years). In a separate category called healthy life expectancy (measuring how long a person lives with "good health"), Minnesota came out on top (70.3 years) and West Virginia was at the bottom (63.8 years).

“There are wide differences in the burden of disease at the state level,” the study authors concluded. Among the factors playing into those discrepancies: drug and alcohol use, obesity and diet.

To combat such inequalities, the report suggests three strategies:

  • Focus on “key modifiable risks,” like poor diet; tobacco, alcohol and drug use; and insufficient physical activity.
  • “Improve access to … quality of care in key areas, such as chronic kidney disease and ongoing care for substance use disorders.”
  • “Address the social determinants of health.”

The report cited previous research that found significant disparities in mortality rates associated with socioeconomic, racial and ethnicity factors.

The study also found that despite progress since 1990 in reducing mortality rates, there was only “limited success in reducing disability.” The authors cautioned that with an aging population, the rate of serious injuries, such as from falls, is increasing. They called for more preventive measures.

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