A report released this week by the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA highlighted the significant difference in life expectancies and the impact of disease throughout the various states in the nation. The reason for the stark differences can largely be attributed to the top five health risk factors — diet, obesity, elevated blood pressure, tobacco, and physical inactivity, according to the study’s lead author, Dr. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington. The data quantified health impacts and captured the information in an effort to demonstrate trends.
One primary point of the data was the quantification of the probability of death in three basic age groups: 0 to 20, 20 to 55, and 55 to 90. The key takeaway from this analysis was that although the probability of death was decreasing in the youngest and oldest age groups in all 50 states, the middle age group saw a visible divergence of statistics. West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama had the highest probability of death between the ages of 20 to 55, while New York, California, and Minnesota boasted the lowest percentage of premature death in that same age group. Nationwide, decreases in death in this age group were attributed to better control of the HIV virus, as well as a decline in road accidents and cancerous tumors. Meanwhile, increases in death probability have been blamed on a surge in alcohol and drug-related deaths.
When looked at as a whole, the data points to three primary risk factors contributing to the overall poor health of Americans: high body-mass index (BMI), smoking, and high fasting plasma glucose. Although overall death rates are still declining, these three factors must be combated to make a major dent in the life expectancy of American citizens. Southern states tend to fare the worst in most major health assessments, while those people living in the Northeast and the West Coast enjoy longer life expectancies. Researchers believe that overall health can be boosted significantly by providing funding to to educate people about the most common causes of premature death.