Life expectancy has been on the rise in the U.S. population, hitting 77.9 years in 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But in analyzing population, mortality and health-insurance coverage statistics in 2,072 individual and merged counties across the U.S. from 1982 through 2001, the researchers found that some groups have some of the longest life spans in the world, while others can be expected to live no longer than they would in a developing country. The difference in life expectancy between the healthiest and most ill-prone people in the U.S. is about 33 years.
Asian-American women in Bergen County, NJ, had the greatest life expectancy from 1997 to 2001 (the most recent period measured), averaging 91 years. Native-American men in several South Dakota counties had the lowest life expectancy over that same span, at 58 years.
Analyzing the data by state, the researchers found Hawaii with the greatest life expectancy, at 80 years, with Minnesota second at 78.8 years. The District of Columbia had the lowest life expectancy at 72 years, followed by Mississippi at 73.6 years.
The finding suggest health officials need to focus greater attention on preventing and treating heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and other chronic diseases, along with injuries in young and middle-aged adults, said Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the Harvard Initiative for Global Health and the study's lead author.