Life Expenctancy for Some U.S. Women Declining

March 5, 2013

It’s not just “some.”  Life expectancy for women is declining in 43% of the nation’s counties. 

This above-linked USA Today article reports on a University of Wisconsin study of federal CDC (Center for Disease Control) mortality data.

They found that nationwide, the rate of women dying younger than would be expected fell from 324 to 318 per 100,000. But in 1,344 counties, the average premature death rate rose, from 317 to about 333 per 100,000. Deaths rates rose for men in only about 100 counties.

“We were surprised” by how much worse women did in those counties, and by the geographic variations, Kindig said.

The study wasn’t the first to reach those conclusions. Two years ago, a study led by the University of Washington’s Dr. Christopher Murray also looked at county-level death rates. It too found that women were dying sooner, especially in the South.

In Five Short Blasts, I hypothesized that it would be poverty that would eventually stabilize the world’s population.  It’s only logical.  Beyond a critical level, increasing population density erodes per capita consumption.  This is a fact – not theory.  (Just because it hasn’t been recognized yet by the field of economics doesn’t make it any less factual.)  As per capita consumption declines, per capita employment must also decline, resulting in increasing poverty.  And poverty has, throughout history, been the world’s number one killer.  As poverty intensifies, it’s inescapable that life expectancy will decline.

 Some other studies that focused on national data have highlighted steep declines in life expectancy for white women who never earned a high school diploma. Meanwhile, life expectancy seems to be growing for more educated and affluent women.

… the proportion of women who failed to finish high school is also highest in the South.

Note the disparity between “white women who never earned a high school diploma” and “more educated and affluent women.”  There seems to be no agreement among experts as to the exact cause of falling life expectancy in these (predominantly rural) counties, but it seems obvious that the factors that seem to be involved can ultimately be traced back to poverty. 

I’ve been wondering how long it would be before the CDC’s mortality and life expectancy data would begin to reflect the rise of poverty in America.  The CDC seems content with merely reporting the data by age range and race, which is unlikely to expose poverty as a factor (although the data clearly demonstrates that the death rate is highest for blacks where, not coincidentally, the unemployment rate is highest as well).  But these deep-drill studies of the CDC data by independent researchers is beginning to show a clear trend of falling life expectancy among the poor.