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 health 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 nations in longevity (the U.S ranks 51st in world), and that’s largely due to poor diet and over eating. Even with the increase in physical activity, obesity rates continue to rise in almost every county, and 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 from county to county, with socioeconomic status serving as one of the key determinants.
At 81 years, men in Fairfax, VA have the highest life expectancy in the country. But drive just 350 miles to McDowell County, WV and it drops to a just 64 years for men, on par with the African nation of Gambia (for men and women combined). Meanwhile, women in Marin County live to 85, on average, the country’s highest life expectancy (compared with the lowest, at 72, in Perry County, KY). 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 ranking first in 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 2010 rates, use the time slider at the bottom of the graphic.