Well, this is alarming: A new study found that women age 75 and younger are dying at higher rates than previous years in about 43 percent of the nation’s counties (many of them rural and in the South and West), effecting an estimated 12 percent of women. And in a bizarre turn of events, a man’s life expectancy has either held steady or improved in nearly all counties.
Taking into consideration that women have long outlived men, what’s the problem here? Unfortunately, as reported in Wall Street Journal, several experts have, er, no idea.
Here’s how the study worked: David Kindig and Erika Cheng, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, analyzed the federal death data and other info for nearly all 3,141 U.S. counties over 10 years. They ended up computing five-year averages to stabilize the numbers and statistical tricks to account for factors like income and education.
Nationwide, the rate of women dying younger than expected decreased from 324 to 318 per 100,000 (woo!). However, in 1,344 counties, the average premature death rate increased from 317 to 333 per 100,000.
Region also matters. While life expectancy may be growing for women who are educated and employed, some of the highest smoking rates are in the South—as is the highest proportion of women who failed to finish high school. It seems highly possible that certain regions studied in the South and West may be dragging the life expectancy statistics of our entire country down.