“It’s dramatic.” Where you live in America could mean a lifespan difference of 20 years

Last week a landmark study in JAMA Internal Medicine analyzed county to county health data in all 50 states over a recent 34-year period. Researchers found average life expectancies varied as much as 20.1 years depending on the county where people live.

“What we found is that the gap is enormous,” one of the study’s lead researchers told NPR.

The data mirrors similar findings reported here in St. Louis through For the Sake of All, where life spans can differ by as much as 18 years in some of the region’s wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods. Read our Discussion Guide on Economic Opportunity.

In the national study, in wealthy regions with highly educated populations, such as Summit County, Colorado and Marin County, California, people lived the longest, about 87 years. In areas of high poverty and low levels of education residents had much shorter lifespans, about 67 years.

The study further suggested lifespan inequality in America is increasing between rich and poor. Between 1980 and 2014 the gap between the highest and lowest life spans increased by about two years. Researchers expect those gaps to continue to widen.

Here are the links to NPR and CNN’s coverage of the study and suspected reasons why.

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