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If you lived here, you'd live longer

You've taken everything else into consideration when choosing a place to retire to. Now consider the life expectancy of the locals.

By Smart Spending Editor Sep 16, 2013 7:10PM

This post comes from Emily Brandon at partner site U.S. News & World Report.

MSN Partner PostWhen it comes to predicting how long you are likely to live, the place you live matters. Life expectancy in the U.S. ranges from 85 years for women in Marin, Calif., to 72.7 years in Perry, Ky. Local longevity differences are even larger among men, who have a life expectancy in Fairfax County, Va. (81.7 years) that is 17 years longer than in nearby McDowell, W.V. (64 years), according to recent research by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Senior couple embracing on beach, rear view © Digital Vision, Digital Vision, Getty Images"How health is experienced in the U.S. varies greatly by locale," according to the report.

"People who live in San Francisco or Fairfax County, Va. or Gunnison, Colo. are enjoying some of the best life expectancies in the world. In some U.S. counties, however, life expectancies are on par with countries in North Africa and Southeast Asia."

Counties where women enjoy the greatest longevity also include Montgomery, Md. (84.9 years), Collier, Fla. (84.6 years) and Santa Clara, Calif. (84.5 years). The life expectancy in these places is comparable to countries with the highest life expectancies in the world, including France, Spain and Switzerland.

In places where males live the longest, such as Gunnison County, Colo. (81.7 years), Pitkin, Colo. (81.7 years) and Montgomery, Md. (81.6 years), life expectancy surpasses other long-lived countries like Japan and Switzerland.

Places with the lowest life expectancies, such as McDowell, W.V. (72.9 years) and Tunica, Miss. (73.4 years) for women, and Bolivar, Miss. (65 years) and Perry, Ky. (66.5 years) for men, actually have shorter life expectancies than people in Algeria and Bangladesh, according to the IHME report.

The researchers speculate that the disparities in life expectancy within the U.S. likely have a variety of causes. Socioeconomic factors such as poverty and education are known to play a role in longevity. Some places might have less access to medical facilities, fewer quality health care options available to residents or more people who lack health insurance. In other places, more people engage in riskier behaviors such as smoking, a poor diet or a lack of exercise.

And, of course, healthy individuals might simply move from counties with a low life expectancy into counties with higher life expectancies.

"If you are in a county in the Southeast where obesity is very high, where you don't have health facilities, and you move to a place that has all of the above, it will improve your life," says Ali Mokdad, professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. "You are more likely to benefit from programs that the county has in place."

Choosing a retirement spot that helps promote healthy behaviors or one where you will be surrounded by peers also engaging in prevention could help you to live longer or remain healthier. Victor Marshall, an emeritus professor and former director of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill's Institute on Aging, recommends selecting a livable community with safe streets and walking paths and a wide range of options to remain physically active, including public parks, pools and tennis courts.

Should these efforts to promote health fail, you'll also want to be in a community with high-quality medical care, "ideally a university hospital affiliated with a medical school," Marshall says. Proximity to a physician who is experienced at treating older patients should be a key component in your retirement relocation decision. "It's a good idea to think, 'If something happened to me or my spouse, how would we get help?'" says James Kirkland, a professor of aging research and director of the Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging. "If you are moving to an area that is very distant, if you're going to move to the top of a mountain in Alaska, you are going to have to plan on that not being the last place that you move to."

More from U.S. News & World Report:

Sep 17, 2013 7:11AM
I live here in northern California, across the bay from Marin County.  It is an area of millionaires.  No wonder they live longer...they don't have money worries like the rest of us in this economy!
Sep 17, 2013 7:52AM

There are many places in the world where life expectancies are high and poverty and health care availability are not issues.  There is a village in Russia where the people typically exceed one hundred years of age but they don't even have electricity according to one article.  They grow everything that they consume and make their own material needs in much the same way as they have for hundreds of years.  For them it just boils down to no pollution, no food contamination, and a active and healthy life style with plenty of work/exercise.


Worry, stress, obesity, bad life habits, and lack of physical exercise will get you every time.  Eliminate those factors and you wind up with a happy healthy population.  In another article I read some of the happiest people actually were relatively poor financially but rich in culture and family life and as a result they tended to have relatively long life spans well into their eighties and nineties. 


Social pressures make much of the difference.  If someone grows up never having anything and they simply don't know what they don't have there is very little concern about their social position.  They simply exist and live to the fullest extent genetically possible for them.  Accidents and disease aside the human being can have a wide span of life expectancies based purely on their genetics. 


One author postulated that we are actually beginning the process of 'devolution' and there is evidence that our DNA double helix is beginning to unravel in some cases.  He claims that this is due to the fact that we have used our technology to prolong the lives of physically lesser individuals allowing them to reproduce and pass on their diminished genetic material thus propagating a weaker strain of human.  In the past those weaker strains would have died off leaving only the strongest genetic combinations.  I am not sure I quite accept that theory but it does rather make a certain amount of sense. 


In the simplest terms your life span is determined by several factors.  First there is your genetic propensity, followed by your chosen life style and habits, then comes disease and accidents.  Each of these factors play a role in just how long you live.  For me in my personal belief system that time is pretty much predestined by fate.    

Sep 17, 2013 8:51AM
A lot of it has to do with how many minorities and poor people live in an area as they skew the averages downward (higher rates of diabetes, alcoholism, suicide/murder, etc.).  The article is pretty pointless as it tries to equate a locale with health.  Would be better to say wealthy, highly-educated white people live longer than average.  The locales they choose just have a higher percentage of that demographic
Sep 17, 2013 9:28AM
I live in the southeast. My dad made it to 99, my mom to 93, all my aunt's made it to over 90. This writer is full of bs.
Sep 17, 2013 9:08AM
Moving when you're retiring to a different place is unlikely to change your life expectancy.  You don't adopt the better statistics of the new place personally.  Better health care or less pollution, more exercise due to better weather, yes, these things could help you, but you'll leave behind friends, family, familiar places... this will likely hurt you.  Assuming that if the statistics are better somewhere else, you will be positively affected, is a misuse of statistics.  Statistics on a large group does not apply to an individual case. 
Sep 17, 2013 8:36AM
Baloney.  I would not live in those areas.  Earthquakes, too many people, lack of empty space.  NOPE, no thank you. 
Sep 17, 2013 9:10AM
It could be that the places mentioned for longevity are places where the elderly flock - and therefore, the population is necessarily older.  Where, in other areas, the population is primarily younger.  In some rural places, health care may not be readily available.  And, in other places, the elderly who decide to settle there may be wealthier, better educated & take better care of themselves.  In other words, its not the place, it's the comfortable 'resort' retirement climate & facilities as well as recreational activities available that attract those who are naturally living longer.
Sep 17, 2013 3:48PM
Well everyday I hear from my elderly parents of how rotten it is to get old, sounds nice to live longer, until it happens I guess.
Sep 17, 2013 2:08PM
Hmmmm no correlation to Marin County being high income?>?????
Sep 17, 2013 1:40PM
Eat less and live longer. It works try it!
Sep 17, 2013 8:54AM
Live forever; drink from the Living Water.
Sep 17, 2013 1:54PM
Not necessarily. Location is only one factor and probably a weak one.
Sep 17, 2013 9:13AM

Statistics folks, if two people represent a population and one is newborn and the other 80 yrs old, and both pass at the same time the average life expectancy is 40......can't change adults habits very easy, and we have POTENTIAL best healthcare ,but we CAN create a system where children don't die so young. In the US we are #1 in two categories in healthcare in the industrialized world, cost per person and .......INFANT MORTALITY. More children die on their first day than anywhere else in the industrialized world. Second COD (cause of death) is accidents. All of the above from the stupidity of adults, not supervising kids, and ineffectively raising them to easily create babies when they themselves are babies. Procreation should be a privilege not a right.

Sep 17, 2013 9:53AM
Where can I go to live to, say . . . 125 years of age?
Sep 18, 2013 11:10AM
What do you know? People in poor areas die younger............big surprise! No surprise to me that rich women live longer than anyone else. 

I was raised in wealthy Marin County, CA , the "Me" county, and I thought our family was poor.  We were not poor, just poor in comparison to the average Marin resident. Then I learned about the rest of the country, where the word poor has an entirely different meaning. You have not seen poor until you have seen the rural South and parts of the Midwest. OMG. Many places are as bad as any 3rd world country. Truly sad. And, it is changing for the worse in CA too due to mass illegal immigration of the poor from Mexico.

Sep 17, 2013 2:49PM
So this reporter was interviewing this lovely, spry centenarian woman; talking about her health and what factors she felt had contributed to her longevity. At one point in the conversation the reporter asked her if, in all that time, she had ever been bed ridden, to which she enthusiastically replied, "Oh yes!! And twice in a buggy!!!
Sep 17, 2013 1:51PM
I heard that the claims of extreme longevity in the Caucuses of Russia were exaggerated, not true.
Sep 17, 2013 4:17PM
In other news the "double chin drug" has been renamed the "Janet Napolatano drug"
Sep 21, 2013 10:23AM
I guess the Koch Brothers will be around for a few more hundred years then ?
Sep 17, 2013 7:25AM

I would like Dr. Ali Moochalot (LOL) to tell us where in the southeast there are no health care facilities available. This guy is an idiot. I live in Nashville for example which has one of the top Hospital systems in the country and has more hospital per capita than any other city in the nation.


Dr, Moochalot can get on his camel and go back to where he came from.

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