Lower life expectancy for states high in poverty rates

The poor live have a shorter lifespan than middle income Americans or the wealthy. This is what many people may have expected, and it was recently confirmed from a study done by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. In fact there have been other research papers done over the years which have also indicated this.

Many of the states high in poverty rates are also high in obesity rates. Take Mississippi as well as Kentucky as just two examples. The poverty rates are 22% (worst in the nation) and 18.5% (5th worst in nation) respectively. Then take a look at obesity. Those rates are 35.6% (2nd worst) and 34.6% (5th worst in country). And the life expectancy in those two states is some of the worst in the country.

Now those are just two examples, but this trend holds true in most of the “deep south” as well as southeastern parts of the country. These trends apply to Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana, and other neighboring areas. It also extends to rural counties that are high in poverty rates.

Now for a quick “eye test” on life spans. Take a look at this graph. https://vizhub.healthdata.org/subnational/usa As an “eyeball” test, see all the yellow and orange hues in the southeast and south? This colors signify short life expectancy. So those deep southern states, with high poverty rates, have low lifespans.

We think it can’t be denied that poverty and obesity are strongly correlated, and they are also correlated to life expectancy as the graph shows. And those also impact life expectancy. It is a vicious cycle, and data from providers such as Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation help confirm this.

What is the cause of low life spans in these poorer parts of the nation? Sadly the answers are not easily found.

  • -It can be lack of access to medical care. Or even transportation to get to a doctor.
  • -There may not be healthy food or even grocery stores in some of the poorer areas, and those families only can turn to unhealthy sources of food.
  • -One cause may be the SNAP food stamp program allows families to buy junk food, such as soda, candy, etc. So more poor people equals more people using SNAP.
  • -One more arguable reason may be lack of accountability. As if an area is high in poverty there may be too many people that just take public benefits to live without addressing the root cause of poverty, namely education (which leads to better employment opportunities).
  • -Lack of government intervention and regulations. Why is it that some states with more regulations (Massachusetts, California, etc.) have such long life expectancy?

This is just one more example that shows how divisive our country is. Rural parts of the country and southern states have much higher poverty levels, residents much shorter life spans, individuals tend to have higher obesity rates, etc. Coastal and northeastern states are the exact opposite. Residents have higher income, longer life spans, etc.

For some reason our current government does not address this health care crisis of shortening life expediencies…they instead talk about things such as terrorism which you have a one in 45,000 chance of dying from. But people have a 1 in 7 chance dying from heart disease, and 1 in 7 from cancer, 1 in 27 from chronic lung disease, etc. However people in the south keep voting for this…so those poor residents do not address it either. So the cycle goes round and rounds. So the issues that impact the poor, such as diseases and conditions that shorten life expectancy, are not addressed. Instead all of the nation’s energy goes to what in effect amounts to non-sense topics.

We have our own solutions to short life spans. Here it is. Are you ready? Eat less and exercise more. That is how you can live a long and healthy life….take accountability for your health (and frankly everything else).


  1. Eunice

    I think that people eat differently when they’re poor. Maybe they do not have access to stores or healthy food options, or they are under amounts of stress. But I think the biggest problem is that it also that it makes more sense to live with a “short term thinking” mentality when you are living hand to mouth, and people in poverty may do that short term thinking (see gamble stats, spend money on not needed stuff, drop out school, etc.) I think Improve social services and economic equality and you’d see eating habits change.

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