Special Report

States Where People Live the Longest

With the exception of a few specific age groups, life expectancy in the United States has generally been increasing at least since the 1960s, according to the Census Bureau.

According to the latest available data, a baby born in 2015 can be expected to live 78.7 years on average, nearly 10 years longer than the average life expectancy at birth in 1960. The increase in life expectancy , as well as life expectancy itself , vary across the nation with almost a decade separating the state with the highest life expectancy from the state with the lowest life expectancy.

To identify the states where people are expected to live the longest, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the latest life average expectancy at birth figures obtained from the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). We also included life expectancy in 1980 and the increase over the last 35 years.

Life expectancy in some states increased by just two years since 1980 and by as much as almost eight years in others. These variations are closely related to differences in several factors, including socioeconomic factors and healthy behaviors.

Higher incomes are closely associated with longer life expectancy. The difference in life expectancy at the age of 40 for Americans in the richest 1% and the poorest 1% is 15 years for men and 10 years for women, according to a 2016 research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 20 states with a shorter life expectancy at birth than the average nationwide, 17 have poverty rates that exceed that national rate of 12.3%. The opposite is generally the case across states with above-average life expectancy.

Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising on a regular basis is known to contribute to living a longer life. All of the states with a life expectancy lower than the national average have adult obesity rates that are higher than the national rate. Click here for the most obese city in every state.

States with lower life expectancy also tend to have higher shares of people who lack health insurance and who report unhealthy behaviors, such as not exercising and smoking. Lack of health insurance and higher prevalence of unhealthy behaviors also tend to be more common in poorer areas.

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. All of the 20 states with life expectancy below the national average also report a higher adult smoking rate than the 17.0% national rate. Of the 29 states with longer life expectancy than the national average, only six report smoking rates that exceed the national rate.

Additionally, of the 29 states that have a life expectancy longer than the U.S. figure of 78.7, only nine states have a higher share of inactive residents than is typical across the country. These are the best cities for active people.

Click here to see the states where people live the longest.
Click here to see our methodology.