Depending on Where You Live, Life Expectancy in US Can Vary by 20 Years

Life Expectancy in US Can Vary by 20 Years Depending on Residency
Image: Always Shooting / Flickr

Socioeconomic factors and lack of access to quality healthcare, unsurprisingly, may explain some of the variations in life expectancy across the country.

Where you live has a significant impact on how long you live, research shows. A new report by a team at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reveals that “[g]eographic disparities in life expectancy among U.S. counties are large and increasing.” The study, which appears in JAMA Internal Medicine, contains calculated life expectancies for each county in the U.S. from 1980 to 2014. More significantly, the study notes that those wide differences could be the result of a combination of certain health risk factors (like obesity and diabetes), socioeconomic conditions, and access and quality of healthcare.

Even as the average life expectancy for Americans rises in many places across the country, the average life expectancy of Americans can vary by as much as 20 years, depending on where in the U.S. they live. Moreover, data in the report reveals that health disparities among Americans aren’t only growing more pronounced, but they’re increasingly based on geography. It’s a troubling trend.

US life expectancy
You can see an interactive version of this map here.

The study “highlights stark disparities: a baby born in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, can expect to live just 66.8 years, while a child born in Summit County, Colorado, can expect to live 86.8 years, on average,” Reuters Health reports. Nationwide, the average life expectancy since 1980 has increased to 79 years; 76.7 years for men and 81.5 years for women.

While the reasons behind the gap are complicated, the factors which are closely correlated with average lifespan by and large are socioeconomic. U.S. counties with the shortest life spans are mostly clustered along the Mississippi Delta and in central Appalachia – regions which haven’t made much progress combating smoking and obesity rates.

Interestingly, many of these same areas with shorter life expectancies are located in states that would be most affected by cuts to ACA subsidies. The longest life expectancies in the U.S. can be found in places like Marin County, California and Summit County, Colorado – two relatively well-off communities with notoriously active, more highly-educated populations.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Healthcare, Inc. and

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Erica Block

About Erica Block

Erica Block is an Editorial Fellow at, where she gets to combine her interest in healthcare policy with her penchant for creating online content. When she isn't reading or writing, Erica can be found wandering around Brooklyn, playing softball, or listening to podcasts. She counts music, rescue dogs, and lumberjack sports among her greatest passions. Follow Erica on Twitter: @EricaDaleBlock


    Juan Aguialr ‐ 

    That’s so crazy! This chart on itself could literally drive a new kind of real-estate market based on life expectancy.