Special Report

States Where People Live the Longest

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

40. Georgia
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.4 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.0 years (4th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 5.4 years (13th largest)

Georgia residents have improved their lifestyle since 1980. The result has been the 13th largest increase in the state’s average life expectancy at birth. The state moved from having the fourth lowest life expectancy to 11th lowest of all states.

What is still holding Georgia back is its high poverty rate of 14.90% as well as the large share of residents who do not have health insurance of 13.40% — the fourth highest in the country. Working people with no health coverage have 40% higher mortality risk than those who have private insurance, according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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39. Missouri
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.4 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.4 years (21st lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 4.01 years (16th smallest)

Missouri’s life expectancy at birth had improved compared to 1980, but their life expectancy rank has dropped over the same period from 21st to 11th lowest. Similar to other states where life expectancy has not improved much compared to other states, Missouri has a high share of residents with no health coverage and a high share of preventable hospitalizations.

Other contributing factors are likely the 22.15% adult smoking rate, the seventh highest in the country; the 25.80% share of adults who do not exercise, the 11th highest; and the 31.80% adult obesity rate, the 12th highest.

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Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

38. Ohio
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.5 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.3 years (19th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 4.2 years (18th smallest)

Ohio, the seventh most populous state in the country, has the sixth highest unemployment rate at 5.00%. The national jobless rate is 4.40%. People who do not have an income face many health challenges, including being more likely to develop a stress-related conditions, such as stroke, heart attack, heart disease, or arthritis. High unemployment in a single year will likely do little to affect the longevity of residents, but sustained joblessness could have an impact on life expectancy.

Georgians report feeling mentally unhealthy for 4.3 days a month, higher than the national average of of 3.8 mentally unhealthy days a month.

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37. New Mexico
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.8 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 74.0 years (24th highest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 3.76 years (11th smallest)

New Mexico’s life expectancy rank compared to other states has significantly worsened since 1980, dropping 13 spots from 24th highest to 14th lowest. Lowering poverty can improve health outcomes. No state has a larger share of households living on less than $10,000 a year or using food stamps. New Mexico’s poverty rate of 19.70% is the second highest poverty rate in the country and compares to a national poverty rate of 13.40%.

Just 72.77% of diabetics in the Land of Enchantment test their blood sugar on regular basis, the lowest share and compares to national share of 85.00%. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have been linked to shorter life spans of about 11 and five years, respectively.

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36. North Carolina
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.9 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.8 years (10th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 5.11 years (18th largest)

North Carolina’s relatively high poverty rate, uninsured rate, and share of households with an annual income of less than $10,000 are likely contributing to the state’s relatively low life expectancy at birth.

The life expectancy of residents varies with where in the state they live, according to research by NC Child, a nonprofit. People who are born today in Watauga County, which is not far from the northern border with Virginia, have a life expectancy of 82 years, compared to people born in Swain County, which is about 140 miles south, and who are expected to live 73 years.

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