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Life Expectancy Varies Widely Across the '8 Americas,' Study Shows
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 13, 2006 -- The U.S. is really divided into eight different Americas when it comes to life expectancy, researchers report.

Those "eight Americas" have a life expectancy gap of almost 14 years, similar to gaps between economically developed and emerging countries, note the researchers.

They included Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, and Majid Ezzati, PhD, of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

"I think that these disparities are large and they are being caused by disease and injuries that we know really well how to control," Ezzati tells WebMD.

"We know how to reduce tobacco ... blood pressure, cholesterol, alcohol," he continues. "So clearly, these interventions are not reaching people who need them the most."

The study appears in Public Library of Science Medicine. The researchers also tallied state-by-state life expectancy, noted later in this story.

Life Expectancy Gaps

The study redraws the U.S. map based on regional and racial life expectancy.

It's well known that life expectancy varies among different groups. For instance, the CDC reported these life expectancy figures in April:

  • Black male: 69.8 years
  • White male: 75.7 years
  • Black female: 76.5 years
  • White female: 80.8 years

Life expectancy also varies from state to state, and even among counties.

The researchers checked life expectancy data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and National Center of Health Statistics.

They crunched the numbers, teasing out patterns by region, income, and race (white, black, Asian, or Native American).

Eight patterns stood out, which the researchers dubbed the "eight Americas."

Here are the eight Americas, from highest to lowest life expectancy, as of 2001:

America 1

Average life expectancy: nearly 85 years.

Residents: about 10 million Asians.

That's not quite all the Asians in the U.S.

Those in "America 1" live in counties where Pacific Islanders make up less than 40% of Asians. All other Asians living in the U.S. are in "America 3."

America 2

Average life expectancy: 79 years.

Residents: 3.6 million low-income rural whites living in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska with income and education below the national average.

1 | 2 | 3

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