WASHINGTON – Residents of the South regardless of race, and blacks throughout the United States, have lower healthy life expectancy at age 65, according to a report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy life expectancy (HLE) is a population health measure that estimates expected years of life in good health for people at a given age.
CDC used 2007-2009 data from the National Vital Statistics Systems, U.S. Census Bureau, and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to calculate HLEs by sex and race for each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for all people aged 65 years.
“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,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “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. It will be important moving forward to support prevention programs that make it easier for people to be healthy no matter where they live.”
For all adults at 65, the highest HLE was observed in Hawaii (16.2 years) and the lowest was in Mississippi (10.8 years). By race, HLE estimates for whites were lowest among Southern states. For blacks, HLE was comparatively low throughout the United States, except in Nevada and New Mexico. HLE was greater for females than for males in all states, with the difference ranging from 0.7 years in Louisiana to 3.1 years in North Dakota and South Dakota.
– HLE was greater for whites than for blacks in all states and Washington, D.C., that had sufficient data, except Nevada and New Mexico.
– HLE for males at age 65 years varied between a low of 10.1 years in Mississippi and a high of 15.0 years in Hawaii.
– HLE for females at age 65 years varied between a low of 11.4 years in Mississippi and a high of 17.3 years in Hawaii.
HLE estimates can predict future health service needs, evaluate health programs, and identify trends and inequalities. Furthermore, examining HLE as a percent of life expectancy can reveal populations that might be enduring illness or disability for years. Public health officials, health care providers, and policymakers can use HLE to monitor and understand the health status of a population.