The lifespan of Americans has shortened recently, reversing a decade-long trend. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), life expectancy at birth declined to 76.1 years in 2021 from 77.0 years the year before. From 2019 to 2020, the drop was 1.8 years. CDC experts wrote, “The 0.9 year drop in life expectancy in 2021, along with a 1.8 year drop in 2020, was the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.” COVID-19 and drug-related deaths were primary contributors to the trends.
Longevity, at least in relative terms, is not as great a problem in some states as in others. Hawaii stands out as the best example. The expected life expectancy at birth is 80.7 years. That is significantly longer than the next state, Minnesota, at 79.1 years. The states could hardly be more different in climate, population density, or cost of living. (Hawaii’s is the highest among all states).
Most states where people live a long time are clustered in northern New England and the West and Plains States. Vermont is number three on the list lifespan list at 78.8. New Hampshire is number five at 79. The list of long-lived states includes Colorado (78.4 years), Oregon (78.8) and Utah (78.6 years).
It is not clear why there are these clusters. “Healthy lifestyles” are among them. People in many of these states eat better, exercise more, and have fewer bad habits. Researchers at Life Extension pointed out, “Seven of the 10 states with the longest life expectancies also rank in the top 10 for living a healthy lifestyle. D.C. is a notable exception as our nation’s capital ranks No. 23 for life expectancy despite having the No. 6 most healthy lifestyle.”
The far end of the spectrum clearly includes states where people have bad health habits and also tend to be poor financially, Notable among these are primarily southern States, led by West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
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