Life Expectancy of West Virginians Falling Further Behind

According to a new study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, life expectancy of U.S. women slipped in some regions, declining in 737 U.S. counties (out of more than 3,000) between 1997 and 2007.

Even though life expectancy nationwide has risen over the last two decades, there is a widening gap between the most and least healthy places to live. In addition, the United States is falling even further behind other industrialized nations. According to the study, which is being published in Population Health Metrics, the worst performing counties were clustered primarily in Appalachia, the Deep South and the lower Midwest.

 In West Virginia, 25 out of its 55 counties (45%) experienced a drop in life expectancy. Twenty-three counties had a drop in life expectancy for women while only fourteen counties had a drop in life expectancy for men. Furthermore life expectancy in 2007 ranged from 66.3 (McDowell) to 75.5 (Putnam) years for men and 74.7 (McDowell) to 80.2 (Marshall) years for women.

Across the U.S. counties however, life expectancy ranged from 65.9 to 81.1 years for men and 73.5 to 86.0 years for women. When compared against a time series of life expectancy in the 10 nations with the lowest mortality, counties in West Virginia range from being 14 (Monongalia) to 51 (Logan, McDowell, Mingo) calendar years behind for men and 20 (Marshall) to 47 (McDowell) calendar years behind for women.

West Virginia also fared much worse than national averages with U.S. counties range from being 15 years ahead to over 50 years behind for men and 16 years ahead to over 50 years behind for women. Moreover, between 2000 and 2007, almost every county (96% for men and 98% for women) in West Virginia fell further behind the international life expectancy standard. Although the remaining counties (Marshall, McDowell, and Putnam) did not experience a change in the international life expectancy standard, McDowell County was still 51 years behind for men, Putnam County was 14 years behind for men, and Marshall County was 20 years behind for women. In comparison, between 2000 and 2007, 80% (men) and 91% (women) of U.S. counties fell in standing against this international life expectancy standard. According to the study, these astonishing trends are largely fueled by smoking, high blood pressure and obesity in which West Virginia ranked 49th, 50th and 45th, respectively in 2010 (United Health Foundation). Here is a table listing the life expectancy data for counties in West Virginia.

The Washington Post has produced a great county map and you can find out more about how West Virginia counties measure up on other health statistics here.

 Posted by Stavros Atsas and Ted Boettner



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