Location, location, location.

It can be a matter of life and death, according to a recent report published by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics. Presenting a snapshot of America’s overall wellness, researchers crunched data from every county in the country (see interactive map below), and found that although Americans are exercising more and living longer, we still lag behind the world’s other high-income nation. The U.S ranks 51st in life expectancy, a dubious standing that’s largely due to poor diet and over eating.

Even with the boost in physical activity, obesity rates continue to increase in almost every county in the nation. Heart disease has remained the leading cause of death. Average life expectancy for American men is now 76, up from 67 four decades ago. And for women, it’s now 81, up from 76.

These rates, though, vary dramatically by county, and socioeconomic status remains one of the key determinants.

At 81 years, men in Fairfax, VA have the highest male life expectancy in the country. But head just 350 miles to McDowell County, WV and it drops to just 64 years for men, on par with the African nation of Gambia. Meanwhile, women in Marin County live to 85 on average, the country’s highest female life expectancy. Compare that to Perry County, KY, where the average female life span is 72.

In fact, as Kelly O’Mara and Olivia Hubert-Allen note in KQED’s News Fix, the Bay Area made out quite well in the report, with San Francisco having the fewest obese men in the country.

Mouse over IHM’s incredibly detailed map to see how life expectancy rates and various health conditions in counties throughout the country have changed over the last three decades. Note that what you’ll see first is the health map from 1985. To see 2014 rates, use the time slider at the bottom of the graphic.

Hey America, Where You Live Might Determine How Long You Live 7 August,2017Matthew Green


Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email: mgreen@kqed.org; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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