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Life expectancy in the US: Where does Mississippi rank? – Jackson Clarion Ledger

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With the exception of the last two years, when it dropped largely because of spikes in opioid deaths, life expectancy in the United States has generally been increasing.

According to the latest available data, a baby born in 2016 in the United States can be expected to live 78.6 years on average, more than seven years longer than a baby born in 1980. The increase in life expectancy at birth, as well as the likelihood of living a long life, vary considerably across the United States.

To identify the states where people are expected to live the longest, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed life expectancy at birth figures for 2010-2015 obtained from the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Life expectancy in some states increased by just three years since 1980, and by as much as nine years in others. These variations are closely related to differences in a host of factors. For example, long-standing research has found that Americans with lower socioeconomic status tend to have lower life expectancies than more affluent Americans.

50. Mississippi

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 74.7 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 71.6 years (2nd lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 3.1 years (5th smallest)

Life expectancy at birth in Mississippi is the lowest of all states and has historically been low. As is generally the case in states with low life expectancy, Mississippi struggles with poverty, and residents report relatively unhealthy behaviors. At 19.8 percent, no state has a higher poverty rate. Mississippi also has the largest share of adults who do not exercise, at more than a third of the local adult population.

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49. West Virginia

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.3 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.8 years (10th lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 2.5 years (2nd smallest)

Like every other state, life expectancy in West Virginia has improved in recent decades. Even though a baby born in West Virginia is expected to live longer than a newborn in 1980, the 2.5 year increase was the second smallest. The state’s life expectancy rank dropped from 10th lowest in 1980 to second lowest of all states in 2015.

Obesity and smoking may be contributing factors. Mortality among smokers in the United States is three times higher than among people who have never smoked, and West Virginia has the highest adult smoking rate, at 24.8 percent. The state’s adult obesity rate of 35.5 percent is also the highest of all states.

48. Alabama

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.4 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.3 years (5th lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 3.1 years (6th smallest)

Similar to other states with the shortest life expectancies, Alabama struggles with poverty, and residents report relatively unhealthy behaviors, such as adult obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking.

Because of access to often expensive medical care, as well as other factors, income is one of the strongest predictors of life expectancy. But so is educational attainment. A 2014 study found individuals in the lowest income quartile had more healthful behaviors and lived longer in areas with more college graduates. The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the Cotton State is low, at 25.5 percent.

47. Louisiana

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.6 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 71.6 years (the lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 4.0 years (15th smallest)

Poverty and poor health are closely related. Having little money increases the chance of poor health because of poorer access to health care and to healthy food and lifestyle choices. Further, the cost of going to the doctor as well as the possible treatment that may follow can be devastating financially.

Louisiana is the state with the second largest share of the population living below the poverty line. Relatively high numbers of households in the state live on incomes considerably lower than the poverty threshold. The Creole State has the highest number of households living with less than $10,000 a year.

46. Oklahoma

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.7 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.6 years (23rd lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 2.1 years (the smallest)

Life expectancy at birth in Oklahoma has increased since 1980 by just over two years, the smallest increase among all 50 states. In 1980, Oklahoma was ranked 23rd in life expectancy. By 2015, its rank had dropped to 46th.

In addition to excessive drinking, obesity, and lack of physical activity — the Sooner State ranks high in all three — Oklahoma has the second highest share of the population without health insurance, at 14.2 percent. Research has shown that uninsured adults have worse access to care, receive poorer quality of care, and experience worse health outcomes than insured adults.

45. Kentucky

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.8 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.9 years (13th lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 2.9 years (4th smallest)

Even though only 5.4 percent of Kentucky’s population does not have health insurance, many residents engage in unhealthy behaviors — the state has the the sixth largest share of adults who are obese and the second largest share of adults who smoke.

In addition, there are just over 66 primary care doctors available for every 100,000 residents of the Bluegrass State, the ninth lowest ratio in the country. Lack of primary care has been linked to poor health. Kentucky has the highest share of Medicare enrollees who would not have had to be hospitalized had they seen a doctor, at 76 per 1,000 people.

44. Arkansas

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.8 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.9 years (14th lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 2.9 years (3rd smallest)

Life expectancy in Arkansas is longer compared to 1980 but only by 2.9 years, the third smallest increase in the United States over that time period. Lack of physical activity, which is a major cause of chronic diseases, may partially explain the relatively small improvement.

The state has the second lowest share of adult residents who exercise regularly, at just over 32 percent, and the fifth lowest share of the local population with access to places for physical activity. Adult residents report feeling unhealthy an average of five days a month, the second most in the country.

43. Tennessee

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 76.1 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.8 years (12th lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 3.3 years (7th smallest)

As is frequently the case in states with relatively low life expectancies, Tennessee has among the highest poverty, obesity, and smoking rates. The average number of both mentally and physically unhealthy days per month reported by state residents are also some of the highest compared with other states. .

Lack of access to high quality medical care is also a major factor in life expectancy. Tennessee is one of several states that have not expanded Medicaid to single, low-income adults between 19 and 64 years of age.

42. South Carolina

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 76.8 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 71.8 years (3rd lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 5.0 years (19th largest)

The average newborn in South Carolina is expected to live 76.8 years, versus the national average life expectancy at birth of 78.6 years.

No other state has fewer people with access to a gym or other place where they can exercise, at only 54.2 percent of the state’s adult population. Staying physically active is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise can help prevent obesity, which is associated with a host of adverse health outcomes. South Carolina’s obesity rate of 32.0 percent is the 10th highest of all states.

41. Indiana

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.2 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.6 years (24th lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 3.8 years (9th smallest)

While life expectancies have risen in all states over recent decades, life expectancy has declined in some states since 2014. Indiana’s life expectancy at birth in 2014 was 77.7 years; it is now 77.2 years. As is the case in many states, the decline in life expectancy is mostly due to rise in suicides and fatal drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other unhealthy behaviors may also help explain Indiana’s relatively low life expectancy at birth. The state’s adult smoking rate, for example, at 21.1 percent, is the 10th highest of all states.

40. Georgia

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.4 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 72.0 years (4th lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 5.4 years (13th largest)

Georgia residents have improved their lifestyle since 1980. The result has been the 13th largest increase in the state’s average life expectancy at birth. The state moved from having the fourth lowest life expectancy to 11th lowest of all states.

What is still holding Georgia back is its high poverty rate of 14.90 percent as well as the large share of residents who do not have health insurance of 13.40 percent — the fourth highest in the country. Working people with no health coverage have 40 percent higher mortality risk than those who have private insurance, according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

39. Missouri

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.4 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.4 years (21st lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 4.01 years (16th smallest)

Missouri’s life expectancy at birth had improved compared to 1980, but their life expectancy rank has dropped over the same period from 21st to 11th lowest. Similar to other states where life expectancy has not improved much compared to other states, Missouri has a high share of residents with no health coverage and a high share of preventable hospitalizations.

Other contributing factors are likely the 22.15 percent adult smoking rate, the seventh highest in the country; the 25.80 percent share of adults who do not exercise, the 11th highest; and the 31.80 percent adult obesity rate, the 12th highest.

38. Ohio

• Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 77.5 years
• Life expectancy at birth in 1980: 73.3 years (19th lowest)
• 1980-2015 life expectancy change: 4.2 years (18th smallest)

Ohio, the seventh most populous state in the country, has the sixth highest unemployment rate at 5.00 percent. The national jobless rate is 4.40 percent. People who do not have an income face many health challenges, including being more likely to develop a stress-related conditions, such as stroke, heart attack, heart disease, or arthritis. High unemployment in a single year will likely do little to affect the longevity of residents, but sus