Lucky you live Hawaii. The life expectancy in the islands is 80 years, according to a new Harvard University study, the highest in the nation. Researchers noted, however, that Hawaii’s advantage is partly statistical, due to its small size and small number of counties. Other “healthy states” include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, all with a combined male and female life expectancy topping 78 years. The study looked at population density, race, income, and murder rates across the country, and found location may have more to do with how long you live than previously thought. For example, while race and income have frequently been cited as a major factor in predicting lifespans, people within the same racial or economic group had widely varying life expectancies in different states or cities. While Hawaii came out on top, Washington D.C. ranked last, with a life expectancy of 72 years.
At the county level, Asian women in Bergen County, N.J., had the highest life expectancy at 91 years, whereas Native American males in some South Dakota counties had the lowest at 58 years.
Researchers said the gap between the longest and shortest lifespans has been widening, giving the U.S. one of the largest “longevity gaps” among industrialized nations. “The study shows that 10 million Americans with the best health have one of the highest levels of life expectancy on record,” said Dr. Chris Murray, one of the study’s authors. “[But] tens of millions of other Americans have levels more typical of middle-income or low-income developing countries.”
Researchers concluded that there are “eight different Americas.” Not only is “white middle America” different from “black middle America,” but they in turn differ from “low-income white America,” “Northern low-income rural white America,” “Southern low-income rural black America,” “high-risk urban black America,” and “Asian America.”
For example, according to the study, Asian males can expect to live 15 years longer than high-risk urban black males, and Asian females generally outlive low-income rural Southern black females by almost 13 years. Between Asian women and poor, urban black males, the gap is 20 years.
“Put in a global context, the disparities in mortality among the eight Americas are enormous,” said Majid Ezzati, an associate professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The full study will be published in the September issue of PloS