American life expectancy varies greatly from location to location, with groundbreaking research showing that places where people have the longest and shortest lives have a three-decade gap. In some cities, the difference between dying in the fifties and dying in the eighties can be measured in a few blocks.
The unbundling of drivers of such differences is a complicated matter. In some ways, the place is merely a substitute for many factors that affect life expectancy, such as income, social class, and overall health. But what if there was a way to remove these factors from the equation to get a number that could tell us exactly how much life we can gain (or lose) if we change our state or postal code?
That's exactly what new research is being done by a team of economists at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Based on a comprehensive dataset of all Medicare beneficiaries from 1999 to 2014, they looked at the differences in life expectancy between persons moving after age 65 and those who are resting.
In this way, they were able to isolate all the factors that affect life expectancy, such as health, lifestyle, and genetics – to isolate the impact of the location on lifespan. The results provide a picture of life expectancy in the United States that differs significantly from typical life-time cards.
The best explanation for this study is to start with one of these familiar maps: The following shows life expectancy at the age of 65. Emagazine.credit-suisse.com/app/art … = 157 & lang = DE en Down to the commuter zone level, one can think of a geographic unit as a cluster of counties sharing a common urban core consistent with the general contours of individual traits such as income, happiness, and overall health.
Remove these features and the map that looks like this – the key finding of the new study.
This card is not a graphic life expectancy; Rather, it shows the impact of a place on the life expectancy of a senior citizen, who is otherwise totally average from a health point of view. The reddish spots affect life expectancy and in some cases reduce it by up to nine months. The bluish zones have a longer life expectancy with an increase of up to one year.
What is surprising is that the relationship between place and life expectancy is causal: a person with average health who moves into one of the red zones may expect this to die as a direct result of earlier deaths. If the same person moves into a blue area, this prolongs their life. "Where you live when you're older (over the age of 65) affects your life expectancy," said Heidi Williams, associate professor of economics at MIT and one of the authors of the study, in an email to the Washington Post researchers An increase from 10 to 10 percent would extend an average person's life by just over a year.
The five most positive life-impacting locations were all New York (Yonkers, New York City and Syracuse) or Florida (Port St. Lucie and Naples). Everyone would extend the life of an average elderly person by at least one year.
The bottom five were scattered: Gulfport, Miss.; Las Vegas; Bakersfield, CA; Beaumont, Tex .; and Lake Charles, La.
So what are certain places that help people to live longer? A final answer requires more investigation, but there are enough interesting connections to get the ball rolling.
An important factor is the availability and quality of healthcare. Communities with providers that have a high national ranking tend to have a more positive impact on the life expectancy of seniors. On the other hand, a lack of services is probably one of the reasons why rural areas in the center of the country do so poorly on the map.
Weather and climate also play a role, and places of extreme ups and downs generally bring life to a standstill. Given the impact of extreme heat and cold on mortality, especially among the elderly, this is not a big surprise. Air pollution is another environmental factor that can affect life expectancy.
The authors emphasize that by far the greatest determinant of longevity at a particular location is the so-called "health capital" – people's past health behaviors, medical care, and genetic material accumulate throughout their lives.
Policymakers wishing to extend their lifespan should take this into account, they said. "There is a significant causal impact of location-based factors that may underestimate this conventional wisdom," the authors write.