Earlier this month, the World Health Organization reported that while Americans are living longer, we are not living healthier; we’re just spending a greater number of years disabled, in chronic pain and depressed – and, the WHO said, that’s especially true in some parts of the country because care is not just expensive, it’s patchy.
That theme was echoed in the first ever state-by-state assessment of healthy life expectancy conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and released this week.
The CDC explains “healthy life expectancy,” or HLE, as “a population health measure that combines mortality data with morbidity or health status data to estimate expected years of life in good health for persons at a given age.” In the new study, that age is 65. And the numbers are telling. A 65-year-old in Hawaii can expect to live in good health for another 21 years; a 65-year-old in Mississippi can expect another 17 1/2. Nationwide, if you’re white you get three more years on average of healthy living than if you’re black. Live in a Southern state and your chances of staying healthy into old age are diminished.
The CDC isn’t telling us why the HLE gap exists, but guesses it has something to do with the following:
- Safe and healthy living environments
- Healthy behaviors, such as exercise
- Saying no to tobacco
- Preventative health measures: cancer screenings, blood pressure checks, etc.
- Access to good quality health care
Or you could look at it the way the Daily Beast does, which points out that the states with the highest HLE are not necessarily those with the highest median income but do tend to vote Democrat. Interesting! (Click here to read the Daily Beast analysis.) Another study tied the Southern “Stroke Belt” to a diet of fried foods (click here to read about that).
Where do you live and how can you beat your state average?