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CDC report offers look at healthy life expectancy

Friday July 19, 2013
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The CDC released a report on state-level healthy life expectancy, a population health measure that combines age-specific mortality with morbidity or health status to estimate expected years of life in good health for people at a given age.

Estimated healthy life expectancy generally was less in the South than elsewhere, according to the report in the July 19 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. At age 65, the highest healthy life expectancy was observed in Hawaii, 16.2 years, and the lowest in Mississippi, 10.8 years. As a percentage of life expectancy, healthy life expectancy ranged from a low of 61.5% in Mississippi to a high of 78.2% in Vermont.

"Where you live in the United States shouldn’t determine how long and how healthy you live — but it does, far more than it should," CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release.

By gender and race

Healthy life expectancy for males at 65 varied from a low of 10.1 years in Mississippi to a high of 15 years in Hawaii; for females of the same age, estimates ranged from 11.4 years in Mississippi to 17.3 years in Hawaii.

Females had higher healthy life expectancy in all states, with the difference between genders ranging from 0.7 years in Louisiana to 3.1 years in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Healthy life expectancy estimates for whites at age 65 were lowest among southern states and ranged from a low of 11 years in West Virginia to a high of 18.8 years in Washington, D.C. For blacks in 39 states with sufficient data, healthy life expectancy at age 65 ranged from a low of 7.1 years in Iowa to a high of 15.1 years in New Mexico.

The largest difference in healthy life expectancy between whites and blacks was in Iowa, at 7.8 years. Healthy life expectancy was greater for blacks than for whites only in New Mexico (0.8 years) and Nevada (0.4 years).

Healthy life expectancy estimates for Hispanics, Asians and American Indians/Alaska Natives were not presented because sufficient, reliable data were not available at the state level.

"Not only do people in certain states and African Americans live shorter lives, they also live a greater proportion of their last years in poor health," Frieden said. "It will be important moving forward to support prevention programs that make it easier for people to be healthy no matter where they live."

About healthy life expectancy

Healthy life expectancy estimates the equivalent healthy years that a person can expect to live on the basis of the current mortality rates and prevalence distribution of health status in the population.

The CDC used 2007-09 data from the National Vital Statistics Systems, U.S. Census Bureau and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to calculate healthy life expectancy by sex and race for each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for all people age 65.

"Over the past century in the United States, a general decline in death rates has resulted in a corresponding increase in LE," the authors wrote. "Because differences in HLE by demographics might result from variations in morbidity or mortality, examining HLE as a percentage of LE reveals populations that might be enduring illness or disability for more years. Although HLE measures do not identify the reasons for poor health or shorter lives, they provide a snapshot of the health status of a population.

"From this measure it is not possible to determine why some states have higher HLE than others. Many factors influence a person’s health status as they age, including safe and healthy living environments, healthy behaviors (e.g. exercise and not smoking), getting the recommended clinical preventive services (e.g. vaccines, cancer screenings and blood pressure checks), and having access to good quality healthcare when it is needed."

Read the report: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6228a1.htm?s_cid=mm6228a1_w.


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