LIVE HERE AND PROSPER Geography, it seems, is destiny--at least when it comes to America's health disparities. Local differences in things like the food people eat and the health care they receive appear to be more important than income in determining how long they live, according to a new study of mortality in the U.S. Some of the news is bleak: the worst-off Americans have a life span in line with that of people who live in Third World countries. The biggest surprise, says the report's author, Dr. Christopher Murray of the Harvard School of Public Health, is that life-span discrepancies show up most in young and middle-aged adults, not kids or the elderly, who tend to be viewed as at higher risk and are due more to chronic ailments like heart disease and high blood pressure than to factors like homicide and HIV.
Life expectancy Longer Shorter
MINNESOTA, IOWA, THE DAKOTAS, NEBRASKA, MONTANA Despite lower income, rural whites in these states live longer (79 years) than wealthier whites in Middle America (77.9 years)
CITIES A 15-yearold urban black male is 3.8 times as likely to die before the age of 60 as an Asian American COLORADO Clear Creek, Eagle, Gilpin, Grand, Jackson, Park and Summit are ranked as the top counties in the nation for longevity (81.3 years on average)
SOUTH DAKOTA Native American men residing here fare the worst, on average living only to age 58 MISSISSIPPI RIVER Life expectancy for counties immediately east and west of the Mississippi River is 76.6 and 77.2, respectively APPALACHIA AND THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY Low income whites here die on average four years sooner than their neighbors in the rural Northern Plains
RURAL SOUTH The life span of low-income black female residents is 13 years shorter than that of Asian-American women
D.C. AND HAWAII Residents of D.C. have the shortest life expectancy nationwide, at 72 years. Hawaiians have the longest, at 80 years NEW JERSEY Asian-American women living in Bergen County lead the nation in longevity typically reaching 91
Source: Murray C.J.L. et al.: Eight Americas (2006). Public Library of Science Medicine. Figures represent 1997-2001 averages