Monday, May 8, 2017

Life expectancy in 13 U.S. counties declined from 1980 to 2014; eight of them are in one contiguous area of Eastern Kentucky

Map by The Washington Post, based on data from University of Wisconsin Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
A knot of eight Eastern Kentucky counties (Owsley, Lee, Leslie, Breathitt, Clay, Powell, Estill and Perry) had the greatest decline in life expectancy in the United States from 1980 to 2014.

In other words, babies born in those counties today are expected, on average, to live shorter lives than their parents, based on recent death certificates. That was true in only five other counties: two in Alabama and one each in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The numbers are in a study by the University of Wisconsin Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study blamed the declines in life expectancy on poverty, health risks such as smoking and obesity, physical inactivity, and lack of access to health care.

The greatest decline in the U.S. was in Owsley County, where life expectancy in 2014 was 70.2 years, down from 72.4 in 1980. That made it the lowest in Kentucky and sixth lowest in the nation.

"Owsley County Judge-Executive Cale Turner didn’t seem surprised by the findings," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "He ticked off drags on life expectancy the county faces, including a debilitating drug abuse problem; one of the highest poverty rates in the nation; historic lack of access to health care; and high rates of diabetes. Turner said many county residents received better access to health care in recent years with an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The law hadn’t been in effect long enough to be measured under the study."

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