The United States has a health problem. Across the country, life expectancies routinely fail to meet the standards set by other developed nations. Differences in life expectancy between the United States and other developed nations, such as Switzerland and Japan, are dramatic.
One major problem facing the United States is the extreme disparity in life expectancies. In Mississippi, the life expectancy at birth in was just 75 years as of 2010, the lowest in the nation. In both Hawaii and Minnesota, a resident born in 2010 could expect to live 81 years on average, six years more than in Mississippi.
The consequences of a shortened life expectancy are severe. Mortality rates are highest in the states with the lowest life expectancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In four of these states, the 2012 age-adjusted mortality rate was greater than 900 deaths per 100,000 people. By comparison, the nationwide rate was 732.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
Poor health can have an intergenerational effect as well. In the states with the lowest life expectancies at birth, infants were far more likely to suffer from low birthweight. A low birthweight points to two issues: possibly poor parental health and potential future health problems for the infant.
Some contributors to poor health, and the resulting low life expectancies, are preventable. Smoking, for instance, was far more prevalent in the states with the lowest life expectancies. In West Virginia, more than 27% of adults smoked as of last year. By comparison, just 19% of Americans were smokers. Physical inactivity is also quite high in such states, led by Mississippi, where 35% of people did not exercise regularly.
In order to identify the states with the lowest life expectancies at birth in 2010 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures from the OECD’s 2014 study on regional well-being. Data on age-adjusted mortality rates are from the CDC for 2012. Figures on poverty and health insurance coverage are from the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey. Other figures cited are from the 2014 edition of America’s Health Rankings, an annual study from the United Health Foundation.
These are the states with the shortest life expectancy.