Life expectancy has increased rapidly in modern times, and as health care and technology continue to evolve, lives could get longer still. Babies born in the United States today are expected to live about a quarter of a century longer than babies born a century ago. However, there are large variances within the United States and life expectancy depends largely on where children are born and live. The differences are not only between states, but also between cities within each state.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the city in each state that has the shortest life expectancy at birth. Children born in Gadsden, Alabama, can expect to live 73 years, the lowest of any metro in the state as well as the nation.
Poor social and economic conditions usually hinder longevity. Because poverty tends to contribute to premature death, the shortest-living city residents in a given state tend to report higher poverty rates and lower incomes than other state residents. In about a third of states, the metro area with the shortest life expectancy at birth also had a poverty rate higher than both the national and corresponding state rates. The median household income exceeded the national income level of $53,657 in only nine of these 50 metro areas.
Behavior is also a major factor. Unhealthy eating habits can contribute to a high obesity rate, for example, which increases the risk of contracting disease, which in turn can contribute to shorter lives. The obesity rates in a majority of each state’s shortest-living metro area exceeds the national obesity rate of 27.0%.
The cities with the shortest life expectancy in a given state do not necessarily report weak economic and social factors compared to the nation as a whole. In New Haven-Milford, the life expectancy at birth of 79.8, while the lowest in the Connecticut, is still higher than the national figure.
To determine the metropolitan areas with the longest — and shortest — life expectancy in each state, 24/7 Wall St. used county-level life expectancy data for 2010 from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research center affiliated with University of Washington. To obtain metro area life expectancy estimates, we mapped the counties to their corresponding metro areas and calculated the average life expectancy by sex across all counties in a given metro area, weighting it by 2010 decennial census population figures. Next, we calculated the weighted average of life expectancies by sex to arrive at an estimate of longevity. Twenty-nine metro areas did not match census records in 2010. In these cases, we added the 2010 county populations that currently make up the metropolitan area. Additionally, we used the percentage of residents who are physically inactive and obese, as well as the percentage of adults who smoke from County Health Rankings. To calculate metro area estimates for these measures, we used survey sample sizes and 2014 metro and county five-year population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Data on median household income, poverty, educational attainment, and the uninsured rate also come from the ACS.
These are the cities with the shortest life expectancy in every state.