Special Report

States With the Shortest Life Expectancies

5. Oklahoma
> Life expectancy: 75.9 years
> Obesity rate: 32.5% (7th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.8% (16th highest)

A combination of unhealthy behaviors contributed to Oklahoma’s low life expectancy. Worse still, the state has comparatively few general physicians taking care of the population and encouraging people to be healthy. There were just 84.8 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, third fewest of any state. Nearly 18% of the state did not have health care coverage last year, one of the worst rates in the nation.

4. Louisiana
> Life expectancy: 75.7 years
> Obesity rate: 33.1% (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (3rd highest)

Louisiana had some of the highest rates of smoking, inactivity, and obesity in the nation. More than 33% of people in the state were obese in 2013, versus 29.4% of all Americans. Poverty is a major factor contributing to obesity, and Louisianans are quite poor. Nearly 20% of the state’s population lived in poverty in 2013, the third highest rate nationwide. Obesity, in turn, contributes to the state’s high level of diabetes, which afflicted 11.6% of the population in 2013.

ALSO READ: America’s Most (and Least) Healthy States

3. West Virginia
> Life expectancy: 75.4 years (tied-2nd highest)
> Obesity rate: 35.1% (tied-the highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (10th highest)

In 2012, West Virginia had 93.3 preventable hospitalizations for every 1,000 Medicare enrollees, more than in almost any other state. This marks a dramatic improvement from the prior year, when there were more than 103 such hospitalizations per 1,000 enrollees. Still, West Virginia had one of the nation’s worst smoking rates and was tied for the nation’s most obese state, at 35.1% of all adults. It also had 31.3 drug-related deaths for every 100,000 people from 2010 to 2012, by far the worst rate in the nation.

2. Alabama
> Life expectancy: 75.4 years (tied-2nd highest)
> Obesity rate: 32.4% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.7% (7th highest)

In 2012, Alabama was one of three states where more than 10,000 years of life were lost prematurely, which is the number of years lost by people who died before they reached age 75. Poor health outcomes, such as the nation’s highest rates of diabetes and cardiovascular deaths, contributed to the high level of years of life lost prematurely. There were 329.2 cardiovascular-related deaths per 100,000 people from 2010 to 2012, the second highest rate nationally.

1. Mississippi
> Life expectancy: 75.0 years
> Obesity rate: 35.1% (tied-the highest)
> Poverty rate: 24.0% (the highest)

Mississippi had the lowest life expectancy at birth in the United States, at just 75 years in 2010. Contributing to this, MIssissippi was tied for the nation’s most obese state in 2013, with an obesity rate greater than 35%. Mississippians are also the least physically active Americans. Poor health behaviors may contribute to alarmingly high numbers of children born at low birthweights, as well as to premature deaths. As of 2012, there were 10,354 years of life lost prematurely for every 100,000 people, the highest rate in the nation.

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