Life Expectancy for Rural Americans is Dropping

May 9, 2016

Credit Center for Rural Affairs

In recent decades American life expectancies have been increasing. At least, that’s true for most of us. But for rural Americans, the story’s a bit different. According to The Center for Rural Affairs, new research shows a reversal of the life-expectancy trend for some Americans in out-of-the-way areas. If you’re rich, the data shows, it doesn’t matter where you live. But if you’re poor, where you live can determine how long you live.

Life expectancy is lowest in a swath of the US stretching from West Texas through the High Plains to the Midwest. Blacks have the highest rural mortality rate. And for middle-aged white women in some hard-hit counties, the death rate has more than doubled.

While white women remain at an advantage, that advantage has been eroding. Researchers associate the trend with fewer economic opportunities in rural areas, lower rates of education, and higher rates of smoking, obesity, and drug and alcohol abuse.