Some worrisome data in new study of U.S. life expectancy

A new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — “Life expectancy in most US counties falls behind world’s healthiest nations” — is sobering and disturbing.

The Washington Post has a piece about the study here, and it looks like various outlets are all pouncing on the news today.

A couple of headline numbers: from 1987 to 2007, average U.S. life expectancy for men increased from 71.3 to 75.6, but for women the increase was only from 78.4 to 80.8. But the numbers vary greatly across the country — and even within states — with large portions of rural America, especially in the Deep South, faring far worse than the country as a whole.

I’ll be back sometime soon with a follow up post looking at racial differences and at data specific to Georgia and to the Savannah area, but take a look at the maps. The bluer an area, the more life expectancy has increased in the past 20 years. While the U.S. lags behind much of the world, including our allies in Europe who spend about half what we currently spend per capita on health care, the map for men doesn’t look too bad. It shows life expectancy increasing almost everywhere, if rather slowly:

But the picture is far different for women, with large swaths of the country showing actual declines in life expectancy between 1987 and 2007:

More later.