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Live long and prosper!

I’ve got some good news, and some bad news.

I’ll give you the bad news first! :-) Since there is MORE OF IT…! :-)

Researchers in the U.S. and the U.K. compared life expectancies in the U.S. to a moving average of life expectancies in the 10 countries with the lowest death rates, which includes other affluent countries such as Canada, Japan, Australia, and Switzerland. Despite spending more on health care in the U.S., per capita, than in any other country in the world (hmmmmm…. MAYBE our health care is too EXPENSIVE? Maybe we need to look at better ways to provide health care? It may ALREADY have been done, somewhere else.), 80% of U.S. counties FELL BELOW the life expectancies of that group of 10 nations, between the years 2000 and 2007.

The U.S. ranks 38th among nations in life expectancy, BEHIND, for example, the Virgin Islands, Martinique, and Costa Rica.

The study, published in the journal Population Health Metrics, found that even though life expectancies in countries like Canada and Australia are increasing, there is a widespread pattern of decline in the U.S. Christopher Murray, M.D., one of the coauthors and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, in Seattle, found these results to be “a huge surprise.”

The study ALSO found HUGE differences among various U.S. counties! In 2007, life expectancies for men showed a high of about 81 years, in Fairfax County, Virginia, to a low of about 66 years, in Holmes County, Mississippi, which has the lowest life expectancy in the country. For women, the story is worse. Since 1997, the life expectancy of women has declined or failed to rise in more than 850 counties (as compared with 84 counties for men), including 82% of the counties in Oklahoma, 66% of the counties in Tennessee, and 59% in Kentucky. In five of the counties of Mississippi, women have life expectancies similar to those of women in Honduras, El Salvador, and Peru, and comparable to or BELOW those for women in Guatemala, Paraguay, Ukraine, and Algeria!

The disparities among counties cannot be explained by demographic factors like income or ethnicity, even though, for example, black men and women have lower life expectancies in all U.S. counties than their white counterparts.

“Ninety percent of the variation in the pace of progress is not related to either of those factors, so you need to look elsewhere to understand why some counties are keeping up and why other counties are falling behind,” Murray says.

The authors of the study suggest that obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and other behaviors and conditions leading to poor health and early death may be responsible. The video accompanying the article highlights a map of the states with the lowest life expectancies and talks about obesity.

The worst U.S. counties for men had life expectancies similar to or lower than those of men in Guatemala, Fiji, El Salvador, Lithuania, and Pakistan. The worst U.S. counties for male life expectancies are:

  1. Holmes County, Mississippi (65.9 years)
  2. Quitman County, Mississippi (66 years)
  3. Tunica County, Mississippi (66 years)
  4. McDowell County, West Virginia (66.3 years)
  5. Humphreys County, Mississippi (66.5 years)

Those for women are:

  1. Holmes County, Mississippi (73.5 years)
  2. Sunflower County, Mississippi (73.6 years)
  3. Humphreys County, Mississippi (74.1 years)
  4. Quitman County, Mississippi (74.1 years)
  5. Sharkey County, Mississippi (74.1 years)

Oh yeah, I almost FORGOT! :-) The GOOD news is that, in FIVE U.S. counties, INCLUDING TWO counties in the San Francisco Bay Area (no, not mineMarin County and Santa Clara County), MEN actually have a longer life expectancy than men in any other country in the world. Coincidentally (since income was ruled out statistically :-) ), Marin and Santa Clara counties were ranked 18th and 19th among the 25 wealthiest U.S. counties in 2010, by Forbes. The five counties are:

  1. Fairfax County, Virginia (81.1 years)
  2. Marin County, California (80.8 years)
  3. Montgomery County, Maryland (80.7 years)
  4. Santa Clara County, California (80.6 years)
  5. Douglas County, Colorado (80.3 years)

There is NO county in the United States where life expectancies for women exceed that for women in Japan, the highest in the world (86.2 years). The best counties for high life expectancy for women include Marin County and San Mateo County in the Bay Area and are:

  1. Collier County, Florida (86 years)
  2. Teton County, Wyoming (84.7 years)
  3. San Mateo County, California (84.5 years)
  4. Marin County, California (84.5 years)
  5. Montgomery County, Maryland (84.5 years)

Live long and prosper!

-Bill at

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