Your Life Expectancy: Green or Yellow?

My husband and I live in one of the states that has the highest life expectancy in America. How do I know this? I read an article in The Wall Street Journal by Talal Ansari that asks, “Where are people living the longest? See where your state ranks in life expectancy.”

Life Expectancy by State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

When you read it, keep in mind that life expectancy in America has declined for three years straight years overall. Why? A study from the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University suggests the drop is being driven by higher rates of death among middle-aged Americans.

The Green Coasts

It cheered me to see that Massachusetts is colored deep green, for a life expectancy of 79 to 80.7. That comes in well above the national average of 77 years. I intend to beat that number, of course. Don’t we all?

Hawaii ranks at the top of the map with 80.7 while Mississippi has the lowest at 71.9.  Other “green states” are New Hampshire, California, Washington, and Minnesota.

With the exceptions of Hawaii and Minnesota. all the green, high-life-expectancy states stretch along the coasts, while the middle of America comes in pale green (77 to 78.9) and tan (75 to 76.9).

A Nearly Solid Yellow South

obese man, obesity, eating, life expectancyOn the other hand, the Deep South appears as almost solid yellow, for a life expectancy of 71.9 to 74.9. Interestingly, this part of the country also has:

Could these things be connected? (Sarcasm alert) Might education lead to better decisions about diet and exercise? Could getting vaccinated against a highly communicable virus keep you alive? Can we imagine that better healthcare would save more new mothers?

A Drought of Candidates

Army, running, ruck sacks, infantryNow consider this: the south is where the U.S. Armed Forces recruit most of their members. Only now they have recruitment problems. Every branch of the U.S. military is struggling to meet its 2022 recruiting goals. Add drug use, criminal records, and a general unwillingness to serve and you can see a problem developing.

Can the military keep up to strength if its recruiting strategy focuses on a part of the country where people get fat and die young? (Don’t bother commenting on how I’m fat-shaming people. I stand with Bill Maher on that issue.)

Bill Maher on “Body Positivity”
(Watch if you dare)

Physical Fitness and Life Expectancy

I’m old enough to remember when President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the first “Council on Youth Fitness” in 1956. Pres. Eisenhower felt compelled to create this national initiative after he read the results of a study comparing American children unfavorably with a group of European youth across measures of physical fitness. In 1960, President John F. Kennedy changed the name to “The President’s Council on Physical Fitness” and promoted it further.

What you might not know was that back then, Americans of all ages were thinner and fitter than they are now. Kids like my siblings and I got a lot more physical activity, much of it outdoors, than kids do today. We didn’t have screens to look at instead of doing things and snack food options were severely limited. Young men answered their draft calls and went to boot camp, where they ran with ruck sacks.

Wall-e, fat, obesity, increasing weight

From Wall-e

We could use another presidential initiative today. Only I fear it would get caught up in arguments about food choices, whether sugar is worse than fat, and how much exercise constitutes enough.

Did you ever watch the animated film Wall-e? Fifties kids were the original occupants of the big space ship. Today’s young people look more like the indolent passengers several generations later.

Moving Greenward

All of that leaves us with a country where life expectancy has been declining instead of growing. The science-fiction novels I read as a kid about humans in far-off 2022 achieving immortality have proven way off the mark. Instead, life expectancy has gone in the other direction.

But, if you do want to live forever, I urge you to take a look at the map above. Stop drinking soda and eating chips. Stop smoking. Get up and take a walk. Go to the doctor for a checkup.

Then pick the coast you like and move to one of the green states.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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