States Where People Live the Longest

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25. South Dakota
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 79.1 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 74.9 years (13th highest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 4.2 years (20th smallest)

South Dakota’s life expectancy at birth rank compared to other states has significantly declined, from having the 13th highest life expectancy in 1980 to 23rd highest just 35 years later. Adults report the fewest mentally unhealthy days a month and among the fewest physically unhealthy days a month. The state also has the lowest share of adults who report being in poor health. What may be driving South Dakota’s life expectancy ranking lower, however, is the share of excessive drinking and the percentage of driving deaths involving alcohol. Some 20.2% of adults report excessive drinking compared to 18.0% nationwide, and 37.2% of driving deaths involve alcohol, the sixth highest share in the country.

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24. Idaho
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 79.1 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 75.2 years (7th highest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 3.89 years (13th smallest)

Idaho is another state where the life expectancy rank has dropped significantly since 1980, from the seventh highest to 24th highest. While the share of adults smoking, drinking excessively, and those who are obese is close to national averages, the share of state residents who lack health insurance coverage is higher than the national share. More than 10.1% of residents are uninsured compared to 8.7% of Americans nationwide.

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23. Illinois
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 79.1 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.3 years (18th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 5.9 years (7th largest)

Illinois has improved its life expectancy standing over the last four decades due to a near 5.9 years increase in life expectancy — the seventh largest improvement in the country. The Prairie State has higher than average concentrations of primary care doctors and dentists per 100,000 residents, and a lower than the national average adult smoking rate. However, the share of adults drinking excessively is high (21.1%), as is the share of preventable hospitalizations (54.8 per 100,000 people) compared to the national figures of 18.0% and 49.0, respectively.

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22. Virginia
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 79.2 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.1 years (15th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 6.1 years (5th largest)

Compared to 1980, life expectancy at birth has risen in all states. The improvement in Virginia has been especially large. A typical Virginia newborn in 1980 was expected to live 73.1 years, the 15th lowest expectancy of states at that time. Today, the state’s life expectancy at birth of 79.2 years is in the higher half of states.

Virginia’s relatively long life expectancy at birth, while still lower than 21 states, is likely partly the result of high college attainment and high incomes, both factors shown to improve health and life expectancy in populations. Of adults in the state, 38.7% have at least a bachelor’s degree, the fifth largest percentage of all states. The typical household in the state has an annual income of $71, 535, the ninth highest income in the nation.

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21. Maryland
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 79.2 years
> Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.8 years (8th lowest)
> 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 6.45 years (4th largest)

Exposure to air pollution, lack of access to healthy food, lack of access to high quality (expensive) medical care, and a host of other health risk factors are more common in poorer areas. All of these are are associated with low life expectancy, and states with low incomes tend to have higher life expectancies. Maryland has the highest median household income of any state, at $80,776.

Life expectancy in Maryland has improved notably in recent decades. A typical Maryland newborn in 1980 was expected to live 72.8 years, in the bottom 10 of states at that time.