Special Report

50 US Counties with the Shortest Life Expectancy


To determine the counties with the shortest life expectancy, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on life expectancy — the average number of years a person can expect to live — from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program’s 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report. While the CHR report is from 2021, life expectancy data published in the report are from 2017-2019.

Of the 3,220 counties or county equivalents, 3,142 had boundaries that fell within one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Counties were excluded if life expectancy data was unavailable, if the confidence interval for the estimate was deemed too large, or if the county’s 2019 five-year population estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau was less than 1,000.

The remaining 3,070 places were ranked based on life expectancy. Additional information on the share of adults reporting poor or fair health, the share of adults 20 years and older who report a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher (adult obesity rate), and the share of adults who are current smokers are also from the 2021 CHR. The share of the civilian noninstitutionalized population without health insurance, median household income, and poverty rates are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

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