September 12, 2012
A recent study showed that the life expectancy of the average American male increased 2.1 years from 1999 to 2009, to just over 76 years of age.
However, that wasn’t the case in Boone County, West Virginia, were the average life span for men actually declined in the past 10 years.
Boone County men saw their life expectancy drop to 69.7 years old, which was a decline of one percent over the past decade.
The counties with the biggest declines are largely in coal producing counties in Appalachia. Twenty-nine of these 50 counties were in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia. Six were in Oklahoma and four were in Georgia, according to the study.
Even before 1999, men in these counties lived shorter lives than the national average of 76.2 years. In the last decade, however, in these counties men’s already-short lives grew shorter.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington compiled the data for the study.
Those counties where men’s lives are growing shorter in rural America are clustered largely in Appalachia, the South and in southern Oklahoma.
The study shows that men living in rural America are simply not keeping up with the health advances in the rest of the country. In more than 8 out of 10 rural counties, advances in male longevity failed to match the increase in the nation as a whole.
According to Robert C. Bowman, M.D., education, employment, opportunity, parent, and other factors shape stressors that can shape longevity or early death.
“Lowest concentration origins in areas such as income, population density, property value, school funding, education and language shape lower outcomes for male and female,” he said. “This is seen in higher education access and medical school admission at the lowest levels or about 3 per 100,000 in the county per class year.”
The Institutes of Medicine recommendations to decrease funding for rural locations fails to understand lower per person health spending and increased complexity of care — social determinants — as well as shortages of workforce because of national designs that leave rural populations behind, Bowman went on to say about the statistics in the study.
“About half of the population is left behind in areas such as health spending, the impact of health economics, jobs, local leadership, and other areas,” Bowman said. “Most Americans left behind must remind American leaders that they exist, that they are a majority, and that the designs for past decades and decades to come must not cause their children and their children’s children to fall further behind.”