States With the Longest and Shortest Life Expectancy

February 20, 2018 by Evan Comen

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Due to improvements in medicine, sanitation, and other public health advances, life expectancy in most of the developed world has increased nearly every year over the past century. Despite this trend, life expectancy in fallen in the U.S. for the second year in a row.

While Americans enjoyed the highest life expectancy of any OECD nation in the 1960s, the U.S. health advantage began to wane in the 1980s and eventually fell below the OECD average in 1998. The U.S. average life expectancy at birth today is 78.7 years, 1.5 years lower than the OECD average.

Relative to other affluent nations, Americans report worse birth outcomes, more injuries and homicides, higher teenage pregnancy rates, and higher incidences of HIV/AIDS, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Click here to see the states with the longest and shortest life expectancy.

Life expectancy also varies heavily across the United States. While life expectancy in some states is greater than the OECD average, in others it is on par with developing countries like Malaysia, Uruguay, and Iran. Differences in life expectancy throughout the United States largely parallel differences in socioeconomic conditions, like income and education, and risk factors like smoking, inactivity, and obesity.

To determine the states with the longest and shortest life expectancy, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2014 life expectancy at birth figures provided by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global research center affiliated with the University of Washington.

Factors that contribute to poorer health among Americans relative to the OECD include unhealthy behaviors such as high caloric intake and firearm ownership, weaker welfare support, lack of universal health insurance, and a physical environment that encourages car ownership over pedestrian and bicycle transportation.

Within the United States, states with the most risk factors have the lowest life expectancy. The eight states with the lowest life expectancy also have the eight highest inactivity and eight highest obesity rates of any state. Other behavioral risk factors, such as smoking, correlate highly with life expectancy. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than it is for nonsmokers. In 13 of the 15 states with the shortest life expectancy, the smoking rate is higher than the national figure of 18%.

In recent years, one of the major factors reducing life expectancy in America has been the opioid crisis. Drug addiction has devastated families and ravaged communities. More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015 — more than the number of fatalities the United States suffered during the Vietnam War. Mississippi and Kentucky, which have the two highest drug overdose mortality rates, were among the five states with the largest declines in life expectancy from 2010 to 2014, and now have the lowest and seventh lowest life expectancy of any state, respectively.

While the relationship between income and health is complicated, wealthier individuals are far more likely to live longer than less wealthy individuals. Higher-income Americans can afford fresh, healthy food, and they have easier access to gyms and other opportunities for physical activity and to preventative medical care. Of the 15 states with the highest life expectancy, the median annual household income is below the $57,617 national median in only one. Similarly, the poverty rate in 13 of the 15 states with the longest life expectancy is well below the 14% national figure.

Education is closely related to income, and as a result is a major determinant of health. In addition to increasing the likelihood that an individual will obtain a high-paying job, a college education can provide one with the tools necessary to make healthier choices about diet and exercise. In 13 of the 15 states with the longest life expectancy, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is greater than the 31.3% national share.

To determine the states with the longest and shortest life expectancy, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2014 life expectancy at birth figures provided by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global research center affiliated with the University of Washington. Data on smoking and obesity came from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Data on median household income came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. All data are for the most recent period available.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. exceeded the number of casualties sustained by Americans during the Vietnam War. In fact, drug deaths in 2015 exceeded total U.S. fatalities during the war. 

 

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50. Hawaii
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.2 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 22.3% (2nd lowest)
> Smoking rate: 14.1% (8th lowest)
> Median household income: $74,511 (5th highest)

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49. Minnesota
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.9 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 27.0% (16th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 16.2% (19th lowest)
> Median household income: $65,599 (13th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

48. California
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.8 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 22.7% (3rd lowest)
> Smoking rate: 11.7% (2nd lowest)
> Median household income: $67,739 (9th highest)

47. Connecticut
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.6 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 25.1% (9th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 13.5% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $73,433 (6th highest)

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46. Massachusetts
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.4 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 24.1% (5th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 14.0% (6th lowest)
> Median household income: $75,297 (4th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

45. New York
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.4 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 24.6% (7th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 15.2% (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $62,909 (14th highest)

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44. Vermont
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.2 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 24.2% (6th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 16.0% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $57,677 (20th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

43. Colorado
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.2 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 20.2% (the lowest)
> Smoking rate: 15.6% (15th lowest)
> Median household income: $65,685 (12th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

42. New Hampshire
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.2 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 27.9% (22nd lowest)
> Smoking rate: 15.9% (17th lowest)
> Median household income: $70,936 (7th highest)

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41. New Jersey
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 25.6% (11th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 13.5% (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $76,126 (3rd highest)

Source: Thinkstock

40. Washington
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 27.2% (18th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 15.0% (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $67,106 (10th highest)

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39. North Dakota
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 31.1% (14th highest)
> Smoking rate: 18.7% (20th highest)
> Median household income: $60,656 (17th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

38. Utah
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.9 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 25.4% (10th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 9.1% (the lowest)
> Median household income: $65,977 (11th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

37. Wisconsin
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 30.4% (17th highest)
> Smoking rate: 17.3% (23rd lowest)
> Median household income: $56,811 (24th highest)

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36. Rhode Island
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 27.1% (17th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 15.5% (14th lowest)
> Median household income: $60,596 (18th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

35. Iowa
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.7 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 31.3% (13th highest)
> Smoking rate: 18.1% (22nd highest)
> Median household income: $56,247 (25th lowest)

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34. Arizona
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 26.1% (13th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 14.0% (7th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,558 (20th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

33. Nebraska
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 29.8% (18th highest)
> Smoking rate: 17.1% (21st lowest)
> Median household income: $56,927 (22nd highest)

Source: Thinkstock

32. South Dakota
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 29.8% (19th highest)
> Smoking rate: 20.1% (13th highest)
> Median household income: $54,467 (22nd lowest)

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31. Idaho
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 28.0% (23rd lowest)
> Smoking rate: 13.8% (5th lowest)
> Median household income: $51,807 (15th lowest)

Source: flickr

30. Florida
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 25.7% (12th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 15.8% (16th lowest)
> Median household income: $50,860 (13th lowest)

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29. Oregon
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.4 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 26.4% (14th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 17.1% (22nd lowest)
> Median household income: $57,532 (21st highest)

Source: Thinkstock

28. Maine
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.3 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 28.2% (25th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 19.5% (15th highest)
> Median household income: $53,079 (19th lowest)

27. Virginia
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.2 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 27.2% (19th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 16.5% (20th lowest)
> Median household income: $68,114 (8th highest)

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26. Maryland
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.2 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 28.9% (24th highest)
> Smoking rate: 15.1% (10th lowest)
> Median household income: $78,945 (the highest)

Source: Thinkstock

25. Illinois
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 27.3% (20th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 15.1% (11th lowest)
> Median household income: $60,960 (16th highest)

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24. Montana
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.9 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 25.0% (8th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 18.9% (19th highest)
> Median household income: $50,027 (11th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

23. Pennsylvania
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 29.3% (23rd highest)
> Smoking rate: 18.1% (21st highest)
> Median household income: $56,907 (23rd highest)

Source: Thinkstock

22. Kansas
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.7 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 30.8% (16th highest)
> Smoking rate: 17.7% (24th highest)
> Median household income: $54,935 (23rd lowest)

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21. Delaware
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.7 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 29.4% (22nd highest)
> Smoking rate: 17.4% (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $61,757 (15th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

20. Wyoming
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.6 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 27.7% (21st lowest)
> Smoking rate: 19.1% (17th highest)
> Median household income: $59,882 (19th highest)

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19. Texas
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 28.0% (24th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 15.2% (12th lowest)
> Median household income: $56,565 (25th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

18. Alaska
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.4 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 28.7% (25th highest)
> Smoking rate: 19.1% (16th highest)
> Median household income: $76,440 (2nd highest)

Source: Thinkstock

17. New Mexico
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.4 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 24.0% (4th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 17.5% (25th lowest)
> Median household income: $46,748 (7th lowest)

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16. Michigan
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.3 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 31.4% (11th highest)
> Smoking rate: 20.7% (11th highest)
> Median household income: $52,492 (18th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

15. Nevada
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 26.8% (15th lowest)
> Smoking rate: 17.5% (25th highest)
> Median household income: $55,180 (24th lowest)

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14. Ohio
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.9 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 31.4% (12th highest)
> Smoking rate: 21.6% (9th highest)
> Median household income: $52,334 (17th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

13. North Carolina
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.9 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 29.7% (20th highest)
> Smoking rate: 19.0% (18th highest)
> Median household income: $50,584 (12th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

12. Missouri
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.7 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 30.8% (15th highest)
> Smoking rate: 22.3% (5th highest)
> Median household income: $51,746 (14th lowest)

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11. Indiana
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.7 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 31.7% (10th highest)
> Smoking rate: 20.6% (12th highest)
> Median household income: $52,314 (16th lowest)

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10. Georgia
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.4 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 29.6% (21st highest)
> Smoking rate: 17.7% (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $53,559 (21st lowest)

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9. South Carolina
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.9 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 31.8% (9th highest)
> Smoking rate: 19.7% (14th highest)
> Median household income: $49,501 (10th lowest)

8. Tennessee
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.3 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 31.8% (8th highest)
> Smoking rate: 21.9% (7th highest)
> Median household income: $48,547 (8th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

7. Kentucky
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.3 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 32.9% (6th highest)
> Smoking rate: 25.9% (the highest)
> Median household income: $46,659 (6th lowest)

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6. Arkansas
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.2 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 34.4% (4th highest)
> Smoking rate: 24.9% (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $44,334 (3rd lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

5. Oklahoma
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.1 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 32.7% (7th highest)
> Smoking rate: 22.2% (6th highest)
> Median household income: $49,176 (9th lowest)

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4. West Virginia
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.0 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 34.6% (2nd highest)
> Smoking rate: 25.7% (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $43,385 (2nd lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

3. Louisiana
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.8 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 34.5% (3rd highest)
> Smoking rate: 21.9% (8th highest)
> Median household income: $45,146 (4th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

2. Alabama
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.7 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 34.0% (5th highest)
> Smoking rate: 21.4% (10th highest)
> Median household income: $46,257 (5th lowest)

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1. Mississippi
> Life expectancy at birth: 74.9 yrs.
> Obesity rate: 35.2% (the highest)
> Smoking rate: 22.5% (4th highest)
> Median household income: $41,754 (the lowest)