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United States

How your life expectancy can be affected by where you live

  • Children born in part of Roosevelt Island, New York, have estimated life expectancy of 59 years, while kids born 10km away in Chinatown can expect to live to 93
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 5:43pm

Even your lifespan can be local.

Researchers have long said that health disparities are heavily influenced by where you live. New data from the National Centre for Health Statistics shows just how much your neighbourhood can affect the length of your life.

In recent years, the US has seen overall life expectancy decrease, from 78.7 years in 2015 to 78.6 years in 2017. Experts have pointed to opioid addiction and an increase in suicides as the main reasons.

Behind that national average are American neighbourhoods where recently born residents can expect to live much longer, or much shorter, lives.

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Associated Press analysed life expectancy and demographic data for 65,662 census tracts, which are geographic areas that encompass roughly 4,000 residents. It found that certain demographic qualities – high rates of unemployment, low household income, a concentration of black or Native American residents and low rates of high school education – affected life expectancy in most neighbourhoods.

An increase of 10 percentage points in the unemployment rate in a neighbourhood translated to a loss of roughly a year and a half of life expectancy, AP found. A neighbourhood where more adults failed to graduate high school had shorter predicted longevity.

New York state had the largest range for life expectancy among its neighbourhoods, spanning 34.5 years. The places with the highest and lowest estimates are both in New York City. Children born between 2010 and 2015 in part of the northern half of Roosevelt Island have an estimated life expectancy of 59 years; a child born 10km (six miles) away in Chinatown in lower Manhattan can expect to live 93.6 years.

In one North Carolina neighbourhood – Fearrington Village in Chatham County – a child born between 2010 and 2015 can expect to live 97.5 years, the highest estimated lifespan for any neighbourhood in the US. A child in part of Stilwell in Adair County, Oklahoma, can expect 59 years on average, the nation’s lowest.

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The analysis also found discrepancies among states. Life expectancy in Hawaii topped all other states at 82 years. Mississippi’s estimate of 74.9 was the lowest, followed closely by West Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

AP analysed 88.7 per cent of all US census tracts. Maine and Wisconsin were excluded because some of their death records lacked home addresses of the deceased.

Researchers used six years of death records and demographic data to create a longevity estimate for nearly every census tract in the US.