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Research: America is Falling Behind in Life Expectancy, But People in Blue States Live Longer

Since the 1980s, the United States has fallen behind the rest of the industrialized world in life expediency. The most recent statistics show us even falling behind developing nations like Barbados, Costa Rica, Lebanon and Chili and just one notch above Cuba. However, if you look at the data state by state you find that there are major longevity differences across America. For instance, folks in New York live to 81 on average while those in West Virginia only make it to 75. So, while the average life expectancy for the country has fallen behind internationally, some states like California have actually kept up with other developed nations like Germany, Finland and the UK. On the other hand, life expectancy in Mississippi [74.9 years], it about the same as Honduras or Mexico. The question then is; why is there so much difference in life expectancy across America and how do we help states like West Virginia and Mississippi fix their problem.

A new study conducted to determine how state policies impacted the health outcomes of its residents was published this week in the widely respected health policy journal Milbank Quarterly. They examined life expectancy data from each state between 1970 and 2014 and compared it to the public policy changes made by state governments during those years on such things as smoking, drinking, the environment, education, taxes, and labor standards.

They found that people lived longer in progressive states with more stringent environmental laws, tougher tobacco and firearms regulations, more access to medical care through programs like Obamacare's medicaid expansion and more protections for workers and minorities. Conversely, the states that implemented more conservative policies, making few investments in health care, education and the environment, were the ones most likely to experience a reduction in the the life expectancy of its residents.

LA Times: “The overarching conclusion is clear: States that have invested in their populations’ social and economic well-being by enacting more liberal policies over time tend to be the same states that have made considerable gains in life expectancy,” the study’s authors wrote."

The authors of the study admit that it is difficult to determine which public policies made the most difference in life expectancy, but noted that policies that encouraged more education, expanded civil rights, reduced smoking and gun violence, and improved labor standards and the environment all seemed to have an impact.

And, based on their research, the authors concluded that, "US life expectancy is estimated to be 2.8 years longer among women and 2.1 years longer among men if all US states enjoyed the health advantages of states with more liberal policies, which would put US life expectancy on par with other high-income countries."

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By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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