-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- White men in the United
States live an average of about seven years longer than black men,
while white women live more than five years longer than black
women, a new study shows.
But when the University of California, Los Angeles-led team of
researchers conducted a state-by-state analysis of life expectancy,
they made a surprising discovery: In states where disparities were
smallest, the differences often weren't due to blacks living
longer, but whites dying younger than the national average.
"In health disparities research, there is an assumption that large disparities are bad because vulnerable populations are not doing as well as they should, while areas with small disparities are doing a better job at health equity," lead researcher Dr. Nazleen Bharmal, a clinical instructor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a university news release. "In our study, we show that the reason there are small disparities in life expectancy is because white populations are doing as poorly as black populations, and the goal in these states should be to raise health equity for all groups."
However, the overall findings still highlight the need to
improve the health of black Americans, Bharmal and colleagues
They examined death certificate data for nearly 18 million
people who died in the United States between 1997 and 2004. The
data included both health-related and non-health-related causes of
death, such as murders and accidents.
Overall, the national life expectancy was nearly 75 for white
men, 68 for black men, 80 for white women and 75 for black women.
In every state, differences in life expectancy were smaller between
white and black women than between white and black men.
Washington, D.C., had the largest life expectancy disparities
between blacks and whites (13.8 years for men and 8.6 years for
women) while New Mexico had the smallest disparities (3.8 years for
men and 2.5 years for women).
Other states with the largest disparities (more than eight
years) for men were New Jersey, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan,
Pennsylvania and Illinois. States with the largest disparities for
women (more than six years) were Illinois, Rhode Island, Kansas,
Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Florida and
Other states with the smallest disparities (less than six years)
among men were Kentucky, West Virginia, Nevada, Oklahoma,
Washington, Colorado, New York and Arizona. In Kentucky, West
Virginia, Nevada and Oklahoma, the smaller disparities were due to
a combination of black men living longer than the national average
and white men having shorter lives than the national average.
Among women, states with the smallest disparities (less than
four years) were New Mexico, New York, West Virginia, Kentucky and
Alabama. In all these states, black women lived longer than the
national average and white women lived shorter lives.
The study was published in the February issue of the journal
Health Services Research.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers
advice for healthy aging.
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