Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the United States ranks 37th in life expectancy, according to the World Health Organization’s most recent longevity report. While the reasons for this are debated, one thing is clear: How much you earn appears to affect how long you live.
There are some startling geographic trends in longevity in this country. A report released by BioMed Central, entitled “Falling behind: life expectancy in US counties from 2000 to 2007” details the average life expectancy of Americans by county. The central southern portions of the U.S. have a unusually high concentration of short lifespans, while coastal areas in the west, the north, and the northeast, have the longest-lived populations. The contrast is dramatic. In Holmes County, Mississippi, a man born today is projected to live to 65.9, just past the standard age of retirement. In Collier County, Florida, women are projected to live to be 86. That is more than a difference of two decades between people living in the same country.
The variance in lifespan among Americans – and the extent to which this disparity follows regional lines – is alarming. A look at lifespan by county, when compared to other demographic data, demonstrates how much the long-lived share in common. The relationship between healthy living and a long life span is well known. What is less well-known is that people with higher incomes tend to live substantially longer than those without.
Healthy living includes things like exercise, well balanced diet, low alcohol consumption and not smoking. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent data on physical inactivity shows the highest concentration of active lifestyles in the counties and states where people live the longest. Residents in the South have among the highest levels of physical inactivity. In Colorado, nearly every county has less than a 20% rate of inactive adults. California, which has the second-lowest rate of smoking in the country, has four of the ten longest-lived counties in the U.S.
Click Here For Larger Image of Longevity By County
The obesity epidemic continues to spread throughout the country. Less than 15 years ago, there were no states with a rate higher than 20%. Three out of the ten longest-lived counties are in Colorado, and every county on our list has a rate less than 25%. Holmes County, Mississippi, which has the lowest life expectancy in the U.S., has the third-highest obesity rate – 42.2% David Satcher, the former U.S. Surgeon General, describes obesity as “one of the greatest threats to child and adult health that we are facing today.”
Our analysis demonstrates that residents of wealthier counties live longer. Nearly every single county in the top ten longest-lived also happen to be the wealthiest in the country. The #1 and #2 counties in Colorado in terms of median household income are on our list, as are three of the top five in California. The second wealthiest county in the United States is also the fourth longest-lived. Conversely, Mississippi, which is home to the six shortest-lived counties in the country, has the lowest average median income in the country.
24/7 Wall st. examined the longevity estimates from the study, weighting the lifespans of both men and women equally. These are the ten counties with the longest-lived populations in the United States.