Life Expectancy Depends On Where you Live

oregon health authority

A new national report on life expectancy at the census tract level reveals that how long you live can vary widely depending on the Oregon neighborhood you call home.

The report, released today as part of the United States Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project (USALEEP), shows the highest life expectancy at birth in Oregon is 89.1 years, in a section of northwest Portland that hugs the southern border of Forest Park. The lowest life expectancy in the state—66.2 years—is in a part of central Medford running along the west side of Interstate 5.

Life expectancy at birth for the state as a whole is 79.6 years, according to officials with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Center for Health Statistics who analyzed the national data. The national life expectancy was 78.8 years as of midyear 2013.

"This is the first time we are able to look at differences in how long people are expected to live at the neighborhood level," said Jennifer Woodward, Ph.D., state registrar and manager of the Center for Health Statistics, based at the OHA Public Health Division.

About 5 percent of Oregon census tracts could not be calculated for longevity because the tracts had too few residents, too few deaths or their populations didn’t represent the entire age spectrum. Nationally, 11.3 percent of tracts could not be calculated.

The report demonstrates that opportunities for people to be healthy are not shared equally among neighborhoods, even when they’re just a few miles apart in the same county. For example, life expectancy in a swath of southeast Eugene is 87.9 years, while it’s 70.2 years across town in a northwest section of the city.

"This report tells us we have a lot of work to do to ensure everyone in Oregon has a chance to achieve optimal health no matter where they live, work, play, learn and age," said Katrina Hedberg, M.D., M.P.H., state health officer and epidemiologist at the Public Health Division. "In Oregon, as in other parts of the country, that’s not happening."

USALEEP is a joint effort of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report represents the first time that nationwide census tract-level life expectancy estimates, based on state death records and population estimates from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, have been available.

Oregon has been working to improve opportunities for health across the state. As part of its effort, the state Public Health Division published an update of its State Health Assessment in July that provides a comprehensive, data-driven description of the health of people statewide.

The assessment is the first step toward updating Oregon’s State Health Improvement Plan that will guide state and local public health interventions. It found that social factors such as housing affordability, food insecurity and educational outcomes are undermining improvements in health outcomes. This is despite strides in reducing opioid-related deaths, HIV infection, teen pregnancy rates and smoking rates.

"Where a person calls home should not influence longevity, but it does," said Hedberg, noting that health equity and cultural responsiveness are among the biggest opportunities to improve health. "We need to continue examining factors that affect neighborhood-by-neighborhood differences we see in these data."

Oregon’s census tract map and data file can be found on the Oregon Public Health Division’s website at  https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/BIRTHDEATHCERTIFICATES/VITALSTATISTICS/Pages/lifeexpectancy.aspx. The national report and data files are available on the NCHS website at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/usaleep/usaleep.html.

Source: Oregon Health Authority

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