States Where People Live the Longest

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45. Kentucky
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.8 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.9 years (13th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 2.9 years (4th smallest)

Even though only 5.4% of Kentucky’s population does not have health insurance, many residents engage in unhealthy behaviors — the state has the the sixth largest share of adults who are obese and the second largest share of adults who smoke.

In addition, there are just over 66 primary care doctors available for every 100,000 residents of the Bluegrass State, the ninth lowest ratio in the country. Lack of primary care has been linked to poor health. Kentucky has the highest share of Medicare enrollees who would not have had to be hospitalized had they seen a doctor, at 76 per 1,000 people.

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44. Arkansas
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.8 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.9 years (14th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 2.9 years (3rd smallest)

Life expectancy in Arkansas is longer compared to 1980 but only by 2.9 years, the third smallest increase in the United States over that time period. Lack of physical activity, which is a major cause of chronic diseases, may partially explain the relatively small improvement.

The state has the second lowest share of adult residents who exercise regularly, at just over 32%, and the fifth lowest share of the local population with access to places for physical activity. Adult residents report feeling unhealthy an average of five days a month, the second most in the country.

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43. Tennessee
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 76.1 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.8 years (12th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 3.3 years (7th smallest)

As is frequently the case in states with relatively low life expectancies, Tennessee has among the highest poverty, obesity, and smoking rates. The average number of both mentally and physically unhealthy days per month reported by state residents are also some of the highest compared with other states. .

Lack of access to high quality medical care is also a major factor in life expectancy. Tennessee is one of several states that have not expanded Medicaid to single, low-income adults between 19 and 64 years of age.

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42. South Carolina
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 76.8 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 71.8 years (3rd lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 5.0 years (19th largest)

The average newborn in South Carolina is expected to live 76.8 years, versus the national average life expectancy at birth of 78.6 years.

No other state has fewer people with access to a gym or other place where they can exercise, at only 54.2% of the state’s adult population. Staying physically active is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise can help prevent obesity, which is associated with a host of adverse health outcomes. South Carolina’s obesity rate of 32.0% is the 10th highest of all states.

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41. Indiana
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.2 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.6 years (24th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 3.8 years (9th smallest)

While life expectancies have risen in all states over recent decades, life expectancy has declined in some states since 2014. Indiana’s life expectancy at birth in 2014 was 77.7 years; it is now 77.2 years. As is the case in many states, the decline in life expectancy is mostly due to rise in suicides and fatal drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other unhealthy behaviors may also help explain Indiana’s relatively low life expectancy at birth. The state’s adult smoking rate, for example, at 21.1%, is the 10th highest of all states.