posted: 22 April 2008 09:31 am ET
Life expectancy rates rose for most of Americans over the last four decades by about six years, from an average of about age 71 to age 77. Yet a sizeable portion of the population, mostly in rural regions, saw those modest gains level off and even reverse starting in the 1980s. This is in contrast to all other industrialized nations.
Nearly 20 percent of American women, in fact, experienced either stagnation or a decline in longevity, what researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington call a “reversal of fortunes.”
A team led by Harvard’s Majid Ezzati published these findings today in the online medical journal PLoS Medicine. The analysis — the first to look at mortality trends county by county — is based on mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau between 1959 and 2001.
Read the cited article on PLoS Medicine here:
The findings suggest that beginning in the early 1980s and continuing through 1999 those who were already disadvantaged did not benefit from the gains in life expectancy experienced by the advantaged, and some became even worse off.
There was a steady increase in mortality inequality across the US counties between 1983 and 1999, resulting from stagnation or increase in mortality among the worst-off segment of the population. Female mortality increased in a large number of counties, primarily because of chronic diseases related to smoking, overweight and obesity, and high blood pressure.