Special Report

States With the Shortest Life Expectancies

10. Georgia
> Life expectancy: 77.2 years
> Obesity rate: 30.3% (18th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.0% (5th highest)

Georgia’s life expectancy at birth was just 77.2 years in 2010, among the lowest in the nation. As in many other states with low life expectancies, poverty is quite high in Georgia. As of 2013, 19% of the population lived below the poverty line, one of the highest rates in the nation. People in the state were also more likely to be uninsured, at 18.8% of the population, fourth-highest in the nation.

9. South Carolina
> Life expectancy: 77.0 years
> Obesity rate: 31.7% (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.6% (8th highest)

Nearly 10% of infants born in South Carolina in 2012 had a low birthweight, among the highest rates in the country. Low birthweight is both an indicator of possibly poor maternal health, as well as a predictor of potentially poor health for the infant as he or she grows up. Like most of the states with the lowest life expectancies, South Carolina has a high obesity rate. Nearly 32% of the population was obese in 2013.

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8. Tennessee
> Life expectancy: 76.3 years
> Obesity rate: 33.7% (4th highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.8% (12th highest)

As in most states with the lowest life expectancies, Tennessee residents were generally more likely than most Americans to smoke, be overweight, and physically inactive. All of these are factors that can reduce life expectancies, and increase mortality rates. Tennessee’s age-adjusted mortality rate was among the highest in the nation. Tennessee also had the highest statewide crime rate in the nation in 2012, which may also contribute to the high levels of premature death in the state.

7. Kentucky
> Life expectancy: 76.0 years (tied-6th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 33.2% (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.8% (6th highest)

The life expectancy at birth for people in Kentucky was just 76 years in 2010, only one year higher than the worst-ranked state in the United States. As of 2013, Kentucky had the second highest smoking rate in the country, at 26.5% of the adult population, behind only neighboring West Virginia. The state also had among the highest rates of drug-related deaths, with 24.0 per 100,000 people between 2010 and 2012. No state had a higher rate of preventable hospitalizations among Medicare enrollees, which can indicate inefficient use of, or limited access to, off-site care.

6. Arkansas
> Life expectancy: 76.0 years (tied-6th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 34.2% (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (4th highest)

Arkansans were among the least likely Americans to be physically active on a regular basis in 2013, when 31.5% of the population did not exercise regularly. By comparison, just 23.5% of people nationwide were physically inactive. People in the state were also both among the most likely Americans to smoke and be obese. All of these factors, especially when taken together, can have an extremely negative effect on life expectancies.

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