States Where People Live the Longest

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50. Mississippi
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 74.9 years
> Increase in life expectancy, 1980-2014: 3.27 years — 6th smallest increase
> Poverty rate: 19.6% — the highest
> Adult obesity rate: 36.8% — the highest
> Adult smoking rate: 22.2% — 6th highest
> Adults in poor or fair health: 24.1% — the highest

Average life expectancy at birth in Mississippi is the lowest of all states and has historically been low. The state’s life expectancy at birth in 1980 was 71.6 years, the second lowest in the nation.

As is generally the case in states with low life expectancy, Mississippi struggles with poverty, and residents report relatively unhealthy behaviors. At 19.6%, no state has a higher poverty rate. The Magnolia State also has the largest share of adults who do not exercise, at more than a third of the adult population. About 36.8% of adults in Mississippi are obese, more than any other state in the country.

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49. West Virginia
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.3 years
> Increase in life expectancy, 1980-2014: 2.51 years — 2nd smallest increase
> Poverty rate: 16.0% — 6th highest
> Adult obesity rate: 36.7% — 2nd highest
> Adult smoking rate: 26.0% — the highest
> Adults in poor or fair health: 23.9% — 2nd highest

Like every other state, life expectancy in West Virginia has improved since 1980. Even though a baby born in West Virginia is expected to live longer than a newborn in 1980, the increase of only 2.5 years is the second smallest. The state’s life expectancy rank dropped from 10th lowest in 1980 to second lowest of all states in 2015.

Obesity and smoking may be contributing factors. Mortality among smokers is about four times higher than among people who have never smoked, and West Virginia has the highest adult smoking rate, at 26.0%. The state’s adult obesity rate of 36.7% is the second highest of all states.

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48. Alabama
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.5 years
> Increase in life expectancy, 1980-2014: 3.21 years — 5th smallest increase
> Poverty rate: 15.5% — 7th highest
> Adult obesity rate: 35.5% — 3rd highest
> Adult smoking rate: 20.9% — 10th highest
> Adults in poor or fair health: 22.0% — 5th highest

Similar to other states with the shortest life expectancies, Alabama residents report relatively unhealthy behaviors, such as physical inactivity and smoking. Over a fifth of adult residents report being in poor or fair health, the fifth highest share of all state, and about 35.5% of adults in Alabama are obese, the third highest obesity rate in the U.S.

Because of access to medical care, as well as other factors, income is one of the strongest predictors of life expectancy. Alabama struggles with poverty. The share of adults in the Cotton State who live below the poverty line is 15.5%, the seventh largest in the country. The median household income is just over $51,700 a year, the fifth lowest in the nation and far below the national median of $65,712 a year.

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47. Oklahoma
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.8 years
> Increase in life expectancy, 1980-2014: 2.19 years — the smallest increase
> Poverty rate: 15.2% — 8th highest
> Adult obesity rate: 33.7% — 7th highest
> Adult smoking rate: 20.1% — 12th highest
> Adults in poor or fair health: 20.8% — 8th highest

Average life expectancy at birth in Oklahoma has increased since 1980 by just over two years, the smallest increase among all 50 states. In 1980, Oklahoma was ranked 28th in life expectancy. By 2015, its rank had dropped to 47th.

In addition to obesity and lack of physical activity — the Sooner State ranks high in both — Oklahoma has the second highest share of the population without health insurance, at 14.3%. Research has shown that uninsured adults have worse access to care, receive poorer quality of care, and experience worse health outcomes than insured adults.

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46. Kentucky
> Life expectancy at birth in 2015: 75.9 years
> Increase in life expectancy, 1980-2014: 3.03 years — 3rd smallest increase
> Poverty rate: 16.3% — 4th highest
> Adult obesity rate: 33.8% — 6th highest
> Adult smoking rate: 24.6% — 2nd highest
> Adults in poor or fair health: 23.9% — 3rd highest

While a relatively small share of Kentucky’s population does not have health insurance, at 6.4%, many residents engage in unhealthy behaviors. The state has the seventh largest share of adults who don’t exercise and the second largest share of adults who smoke.

In addition, there are just over 66 primary care doctors available for every 100,000 residents of the Bluegrass State, the eighth lowest ratio in the country. Lack of primary care has been linked to poor health. About 23.9% of adults in Kentucky report being in poor or fair health, the third highest share of all states.