Where poor Americans live impacts their life expectancy: 7 findings

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For poor Americans, where they live may be more important than how much they make, a new study suggests.

Between 2001 and 2014, higher income was associated with greater longevity, but the association between life expectancy and income varied substantially across geographic areas of the U.S., according to the study, which was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, authors used income data for the U.S. population from 1.4 billion deidentified tax records between 1999 and 2014. Additionally, the authors used mortality data from Social Security Administration death records. Authors said these data were used to estimate race- and ethnicity-adjusted life expectancy of 40 years old by household income percentile, sex, and geographic area, and to evaluate factors associated with differences in life expectancy.

Here are seven findings from the study:

1. Between 2001 and 2014, higher income was associated with greater longevity throughout the income distribution.

2. The study also found the gap in life expectancy between the richest 1 percent and poorest 1 percent of individuals was 14.6 years for men and 10.1 years for women between 2001 and 2014. According to The New York Times, these rich Americans have gained three years of life expectancy in this century alone.

3. The gap in life expectancy between men and women from 2001 to 2014 was narrower at higher income levels. The poorest 1 percent of women lived 6 years longer than men; the richest 1 percent of women lived only 1.5 years longer than men, according to the study.

4. Life expectancy varied significantly across areas within the U.S., especially for low-income individuals, between 2001 and 2014.

5. The best cities for low-income individuals as far as life expectancy were New York City, Santa Barbara, Calif., San Jose, Calif., Miami and Los Angeles. The mean life expectancy among the bottom 25 percent of earners was between 81 and 82 — or roughly four or five years less than their counterparts in the top 25 percent.

6. The worst cities for longevity among the poorest were Tulsa, Okla., Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas and Gary, Ind. In those places, the mean life expectancy among the bottom 25 percent of earners ranged anywhere from 6.5 to 8.5 years less than their counterparts in the top 25 percent.

7. Geographic differences in life expectancy for individuals with the lowest income also were significantly correlated with health behaviors such as smoking, but were not significantly correlated with access to medical care, physical environmental factors, income inequality or labor market conditions, authors of the study said. Life expectancy for low-income individuals was positively correlated with the local area fraction of immigrants, fraction of college graduates and government expenditures.

 

More articles on population health:

Global diabetes rate quadruples in last 25 years
3 takeaways from CMS' blog on National Minority Health Month
5 things to know about America's unhealthy behaviors

 

 

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