Life Expectancy Depends on Race in United States

elderly couple

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that while life expectancy for African Americans has improved over the last several decades, it still lacks parity with life expectancy for whites in the United States. As of 2010, African Americans lived roughly 3.8 years shorter than whites, on average.

The positive news from the CDC indicates that African American men were living an average of 2.7 years longer in 2009 than in 2000. The life expectancy for African American females also increased 2.3 years during the same period.

Breaking down the life expectancy data by causes of death, African Americans had higher death rates from diabetes, homicide, cancer, heart disease and infancy conditions.

African Americans Have Lower Death Rates from Certain Conditions

Interestingly, African Americans are less susceptible to certain causes of death than whites, including the following:

  • Unintentional injuries
  • Suicide
  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Other lower respiratory diseases

Breaking it down by sex, the life expectancy gap was bigger for men than women. The average white man lives almost 5 years longer than the average black man, while the average white woman lives about 3.3 years longer than the average black woman. Still, African American women live longer than white men, on average.

As of the time the study data was collected – 2010 – average life longevity was highest for white women at 81.3 years, trailed closely by black women at 78 years. White men live 76.5 years on average, while black men live a mean of 71.8 years.

Across all races and populations, the average American lives to be 78.7 years of age.

Life Expectancy by State

Life expectancy in the United States varies considerably by state, with the highest figure in Hawaii where the average person lives 16.2 years beyond the age of 65. Other states with high life expectancies include:

  • Arizona (15)
  • Colorado (15.3)
  • Connecticut (15.7)
  • Florida (15.4)
  • Massachusetts (15)
  • Minnesota (15.6)
  • New Hampshire (15.1)
  • Oregon (15)
  • South Dakota (15)
  • Vermont (15.2)
  • Washington (15.1)

Aside from Florida, however, states in the South have notably lower life expectancies than those in the North. Some of the states with the lowest life expectancies include:

  • Alabama (11.1)
  • Arkansas (12.2)
  • Georgia (12.4)
  • Kentucky (11)
  • Louisiana (12)
  • Mississippi (10.8)
  • North Carolina (12.7)
  • Oklahoma (12)
  • West Virginia (11)

The Bottom Line

On average, African Americans live almost 4 years shorter than whites in the United States, according to a new report from the CDC. Major discrepancies in life expectancy are also found among states, with people in the South living 3 to 4 years less than those in the North, on average.

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