Life expectancy in the U.S. increased between 2000-2019, but widespread gaps among racial and ethnic groups exist

County-level data provides unprecedented detail by geography and population groups

From 2000-2019 overall life expectancy in the United States increased by 2.3 years, but the increase was not consistent among racial and ethnic groups and by geographic area. In addition, most of these gains were prior to 2010. This is according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health that examined trends in life expectancy at the county level. The study was led by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, Seattle, in collaboration with researchers from NIH and published on June 16th in The Lancet.

“These varied outcomes in life expectancy raise significant questions. Why is life expectancy worse for some and better for others? The novel details in this study provide us the opportunity to evaluate the impact of social and structural determinants on health outcomes in unprecedented ways. This in turn allows us to better identify responsive and enduring interventions for local communities,” said Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., co-author and director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of NIH.

In most counties, life expectancy for the Black population has increased more than any other racial and ethnic group but overall, the Black population still has a lower life expectancy than the white population. Meanwhile, the white population had a moderate increase, and in some counties, a decrease in life expectancy. Considering these two trends, the study noted that the decrease in the white-Black life expectancy gap could be attributed to the stagnation and reversal of gains in the white population. In addition, American Indian and Alaska Native populations have the lowest life expectancy of all populations and experienced a decrease in most counties, with a gap of more than 21 years in some counties.

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This page was last updated on Wednesday, July 27, 2022