Beckley, West Virginia is the Premature Death Capital of the US

Source: Tim Kiser / Wikimedia Commons

The life expectancy at birth for Americans fell between 2020 and 2021, dropping from 77.0 to 76.1 years, according to the CDC. A great deal of the decrease was due to COVID-19 deaths, suicides, and drug overdoses. The figure varied by gender and race. (Here’s how the fall in U.S. life expectancy compares to that in other wealthy nations.)

Another contributor was that some states and cities have residents with very low life expectancies for reasons having to do with their behavior – especially smoking. This is led by Beckley, West Virginia – which places No. 1 on our list of U.S. cities with the most smokers , where the figure is 71.9 years.

People in Beckley face several factors which cut longevity. Most are self inflicted. The best example is smoking. Over 26% of adults there smoke regularly. This may also be a primary reason that Beckley residents have the highest level of premature deaths among America’s 384 metros, at 644 per 100,000 people.

People in Beckley appear to know their health is poor. Some 27% report they are in poor or fair health, the ninth highest of all metros.

According the the Census, Beckley has 17,084 residents. Of these 72% are white and 19% are Black. The residents are extremely poor. The median household income is $39,845, which is just over half the national average. The poverty rate is 23%, which is about double the national number. If poverty is a factor in poor health, Berkeley is an example of the effects.

Click here for the U.S. cities with the most smokers

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