Life expectancy has mostly been rising in the United States — overall. However, new research has found that in some counties life expectancy is falling — people are not living as long in certain areas. In fact, in many counties, the average life expectancy is 20 years — TWENTY years — shorter than in other areas.
The good news is that some areas of our country are really thriving. The bad news is that some areas are not and the discrepancy is widening.
The difference between those living long lives and those dying young is huge and getting worse — maybe not quite as wide as the differences between the economic haves and have nots — but the data is very troubling none the less.
What is Life Expectancy?
Life expectancy is another way of saying how long you are expected to live.
However, most life expectancy numbers are averaged for all deaths regardless of age – so they include infant and other young person deaths – making the average deceivingly young.
If you are interested in retirement, you might want to know about the life expectancy of the average 65 year old. According to data compiled by the Social Security Administration:
- A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3.
- A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.6.
Compare that to the life expectancy in the United States at birth which is around 77 for men and 79 for women.
And those are just averages. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95.
Counties with the Lowest and Highest Average Life Expectancy — How Does Your Home Rate?
So, taking data from all of the United States, the average life expectancy of a 65 year old is mid 80s and the average life expectancy at birth is the high 70s. However, many individual counties and regions in the United States have a MUCH lower life expectancy and some are MUCH higher than average.
Longest Life Expectancy at Birth: A few counties in Colorado have the longest life expectancies of anywhere in the U.S.A. Of all the people born there, the average lives until age 87 (8-10 years longer than average for all of the United States).
Other notable areas of long lives include: much of the coast of California as well as Mono County on the border of Nevada, a few pockets in Texas (especially Presidio County), Collier County in Florida, Camden County in Georgia, various spots in the Northeast, Williamson County in Tennesee, many areas in Minnesota, and a few spots in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and various other states.
Lowest Life Expectancy at Birth: A few counties in North and South Dakota have the lowest life expectancies of anywhere in the U.S.A., living — on average — only until 66 (11-13 years shorter than the average for all of the United States). (However, many other counties in the Dakotas are average or better than average.)
Most states have at least a few areas of lower life expectancies, but Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky and many parts of Tennessee are notable for the majority of counties having shorter than average life spans.
What is the Life Expectancy in Your County: To locate your own county, see the Life Expectancy at Birth map.
Geographic Discrepancies for Average Life Expectancy at Age 65
While not exact, the geographic patterns for average life expectancy at birth by county were remarkably similar to life expectancies at age 65.
Why Are There Such a Huge Differences in Life Expectancy?
The researchers cite various possible reasons for the vast differences in life expectancy, including the prevalence of these risk factors in counties with lower life spans:
- Socioeconomic (household income, level of education, employment)
- Race / ethnicity
- Behavior (obesity, physical activity, cigarette smoking)
- Metabolic (risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke)
- Health care (health insurance, access to quality care and availability of physicians)
The study found that: “Much of the variation in life expectancy among counties can be explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors. Policy action targeting socioeconomic factors and behavioral and metabolic risk factors may help reverse the trend of increasing disparities in life expectancy in the United States.”
Is Your Location Your Destiny?
Where you live does not determine how long you — in particular — will live. There are probably many examples of individuals who have lived a very long life in locations that have a short life expectancy and vice versa.
Your own personal risk factors are a better indication of your own life expectancy, however even those can be misleading. No one can tell the future and we’ve all heard the stories of lifelong smokers who have lived a very long life — just be aware that these are exceptions, not the rule.
Try a longevity calculator if you want to assess how long you might live.
Why Is Estimating Life Expectancy Important to Retirement Planning?
How long you live represents an immense factor in planning for your retirement. How much you need for retirement is hugely impacted by how long you will live. If you retire at 65 and only live till 68, you will need only a small fraction of what you will need if you were to live till 98.
The NewRetirement retirement planner let’s you control your life expectancy for planning purposes. Try a scenario where you live a long time and you can immediately see what happens to your finances — cash flow, out of money age, net worth and more.
This tool can give you very personalized and detailed answers and forecasts for your retirement. Plus, you’ll discover ideas for improving your plan. It is easy to get started — create an account, enter some initial data and get a detailed analysis, then you can start evolving your information and seeing how your finances change. People say that this calculator makes retirement planning fun and easy.
See how modeling different life expectancy ages can impact your retirement plan
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