Study: Kentucky ranks 45th in life expectancy

More evidence of the effect of Kentuckians’ unhealthy lifestyle comes in a new study that shows Kentucky ranks 45th in life expectancy at 75.8 years.

The study, released Tuesday by SeniorLiving.org, shows life expectancy in each of the 50 states has declined for the past three years, following decades of improvement.

Though the decline nationwide is modest (78.8 years to 78.6 years), according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SeniorLiving.org says “the fact that U.S. life expectancy is falling at all is cause for concern, and the consistent decline over the past few years is the worst life expectancy showing our country has had since a period between 1915 and 1918.”

The study states, “There’s no doubt the average American life is healthier and longer than it was over 100 years ago, but our modern lives are beginning to see a shift not just in how long we live, but in what issues are most likely to contribute to our deaths. Heart disease and cancer remain the two leading causes of death, but recent years have seen huge increases in death rates from suicide, drug addiction and alcoholism.”

The study, with data from the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows Hawaiians have the longest life expectancy at 81.3 years, while Mississippi is lowest at 74.7, which is 1.1 years less than in Kentucky. The nine lowest life expectancy states are all in the south.

In addition to cancer and heart disease – the two biggest causes of death in America – increases in suicide, drug overdoses and liver disease connected to alcoholism have skyrocketed.

Some of the key findings in Kentucky and nationally show:

Heart Disease: Kentucky ranks No. 9 with 195.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Oklahoma had the most heart related deaths with 237.2 per 100,000. Minnesota had the fewest with 119.1 per 100,000.

Cancer: Kentucky ranks No. 1 with 185.7 deaths per 100,000 people. Kentucky had the most cancer deaths with 185.7 per 100,000. Utah had the fewest with 120.3 per 100,000.

Suicide: Kentucky ranks No. 21 with 16.9 suicides per 100,000 people. Montana had the most suicides with 28.9 per 100,000. New York had the fewest with 8.1 per 100,000.

Drug Overdoses: Kentucky ranks No. 4 with 37.2 drug overdoses per 100,000 people. West Virginia had the most drug overdoses with 57.8 per 100,000 people. Nebraska had the fewest with 8.1 per 100,000.

Liver Disease: Kentucky ranks No. 13 with 12.8 liver related deaths per 100,000.  New Mexico had the most liver related deaths with 26.8 per 100,000 people. Maryland had the fewest with 6.6 per 100,000.

Conclusions from the study state:Enormous strides have been made over the years in raising awareness of and combating what were previously considered the biggest medical threats we faced, from heart disease to cancer. But now pernicious new crop of conditions threaten to undo the years of medical and healthcare gains that have been made in the United States. It’s true that the average American still is more likely to die from heart disease than from drug overdose, the huge jumps in these mental health-related causes of death are incredibly disturbing.

While it can’t expected to solve substance abuse or depression tomorrow, a crucial first step is simply getting our arms around the scope of this problem. If not, the increases in deaths from suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse that we’ve seen over the past decade could pale in comparison to the problems we’ll face if these issues go unchecked.

For more information on the study, go to: https://www.seniorliving.org/research/life-expectancy/.

By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today