Forget about football teams, the new state rivalry is all about life expectancy. A report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) breaks down healthy life-expectancy (HLE) by state. Hawaii dominates the list, while Southern states fall short.

The report uses data about mortality, morbidity and health status to estimate the expected number of years lived in good health for people, beginning at age 65. These types of estimates are used around the world to predict future health service needs and to identify trends or inequalities in each country.

Until now, very few studies for the US have broken down healthy life expectancy for each state.

For males, HLE estimates at 65 years ranged from a low in Mississippi of 10.1 years, to a high in Hawaii of 15 years. But for females, those numbers were 11.4 years in Mississippi and 17.3 years in Hawaii.

According to the report, healthy years lived beyond age 65 were:

  • Greater for females than for males, and
  • The difference ranged from 0.7 years in Louisiana, to 3.1 years in the Dakotas.
Life expectancy - figure 1 diagram

Healthy life expectancy for males and females in years from age 65, by state, 2007-2009. Source: CDC

In terms of information by race, the study admits that “HLE estimates for Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians/Alaska Natives were not presented because sufficient reliable data were not available at the state level.”

The report does, however, analyze the state-by-state numbers for both blacks and whites, and it reveals that HLE was greater for whites than blacks in almost every state, with the exceptions of Nevada and New Mexico. Iowa had the largest difference in HLE between whites and blacks at 7.8 years.

While the CDC says it is not possible to flesh out why some states have a higher or lower HLE, the report does, however, suggest that several factors can influence health status later in life:

  • Safe and healthy living environments
  • Healthy behaviors, such as getting exercise and not smoking
  • Receiving proper clinical preventive services, such as vaccines, screenings and blood pressure checks)
  • Having access to good health care when needed.
  • Life expectancy - figure 2 diagram

    As a general trend, HLE rates from 2007-2009 were lowest in the Southeast, with higher rates dotted in the Southwest, Northeast, Northwest, Florida and Hawaii. Source: CDC

    Knowing which regions are falling behind the health care curve is an important component of improving overall health care in the country. A recent study revealed that the US has fallen behind other wealthy nations on health, which is why understanding these health trends is so vital.