Could where you are born influence how long you live?

People living just a few blocks apart may have vastly different opportunities to live a long life in part because of their neighborhood. Unfortunately, significant gaps in life expectancy at birth persist across many United States cities, towns, ZIP codes and neighborhoods. The latest estimates of life expectancy at birth reveals differences down to the census tract level. Explore how life expectancy in America compares with life expectancy in your area, and resources to help everyone have the opportunity to live a longer, healthier life.

How does where we live affect our opportunity to be healthy?

For the first time in our history, the United States is raising a generation of children who may live sicker and shorter lives than their parents. Reversing this trend will of course depend on healthy choices by each of us. But not everyone in America has the same opportunities to be healthy.

According to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.6 years—76.1 years for men and 81.1 years for women. Adding to a 2017 analysis which found growing disparities in life expectancy across U.S. counties and ZIP codes, the National Center for Health Statistics has released first-of-its-kind neighborhood-level data on life expectancy at birth, which shows that life expectancy estimates vary greatly even at the census tract level, from block to block. Developed with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the data makes it possible to understand how much our health is influenced by conditions where we live.

Affordable, high-quality health care is essential to our health. But where we live can have an even greater impact. Improving health and longevity in communities starts with ensuring access to healthy food, good schools, affordable housing, and jobs that provide us the resources necessary to care for ourselves and our families—in essence, the types of conditions that can help keep us from getting sick in the first place.

In a Culture of Health, we all have the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible, regardless of where we live. Browse the resources below to learn more about what shapes our health, and how to take action to help create healthier places to live, learn, work and play.

 

Related Resources

Neighborhood Life Expectancy Project

By providing data on life expectancy at the census tract level, the U.S. Small Area Life Expectancy Project (USALEEP) is designed to help community leaders create more locally targeted strategies to improve health in cities and towns nationwide.

Visit the project website

Better Data for Better Health: Resources for Communities

Health data resources to help communities better understand the root causes of local health challenges, and more effectively target local policies and programs.

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Mapping Life Expectancy: Short Distances to Large Gaps in Health

A series of life expectancy maps developed with Virginia Commonwealth University which show vast disparities in life expectancy across neighborhoods in many U.S. cities.

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Health Equity: Why it Matters, and How to Take Action

As health disparities in the U.S. continue to grow, RWJF's health equity toolkit provides resources, data, and examples of communities working to achieve better health for all.

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County Health Rankings: What Works for Health

An online database of evidence-informed policies and programs which address specific types of social, economic and environmental factors to improve health and well-being in communities.

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