12:47pm

Fri August 31, 2012
Health and Welfare

Female Life Expectancy Declines in Rural Areas

The life expectancy of the average U.S. female increased 1.7 years from 1999 to 2009 -- 79.6 to 81.3 years. Good news on the whole, but Daily Yonder reporters Bill Bishop and Robert Gallardo went a little farther in their analysis of the data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. They found that rural women hardly kept up, and some even lost ground in the decade while their urban sisters obviously gained from widespread health advances.

Bishop and Gallardo report, "The solid gain in longevity was matched in only 168 rural or exurban counties, or 6.5 percent of all the counties outside the cities." That is, while women in most of the nation were living longer lives, in many rural counties -- some 622 of them, in fact -- their longevity shortened in the same decade. Several of those counties were in Eastern Kentucky. The 622 counties represent some 24 percent of rural counties and exurban counties (or counties in a metro area where more than half live in rural census tracts), women lived shorter lives in 2009 than in 1999. You can see a similar map and charts for rural men here. (Click on the above map for a larger image)

As the Yonder writers point out, "The map shows that rural and exurban women are not keeping up with the health advances enjoyed in the rest of the country. In more than 95 percent of rural and exurban counties, changes in female longevity in the last 10 years failed to match the gains experienced in the rest of the country." The largest decreases in female life expectancy between 1999 and 2009 were clustered in Oklahoma, Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama and Georgia. (Read more)