Life expectancy is declining in the United States, but not for everyone

The latest data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) finds that life expectancy in the United States has decreased. However, where you live, how much savings you have, your genes and health habits, and your age can greatly affect how long you will actually live.

Life expectancy decreases
Life expectancy is declining in the United States, but not for everyone 2 Accounting, Tax, & Insurance Services

At the most basic level, you’ll need to estimate your life expectancy in order to create a retirement plan. You need to “know” (estimate/guess) how long you will live (among many other things) in order to adequately determine how much savings you might need to fund your life.

Most financial planning tools will value longevity, but NewRetirement Planner gives you control over that number. You can use the life expectancy calculator to make a more accurate guess about how long you will live.

As you will see below, understanding life expectancy at different ages, in different geographic locations, and for different genders may also influence decisions about where and how to live.

The latest data from the NCHS finds that life expectancy in the United States has fallen to 76.4 years, the shortest it has been in nearly two decades.

The decline from 77.0 to 76.1 years – brought life expectancy in the United States to its lowest level since 1996. The 0.9-year drop in life expectancy in 2021, along with the 1.8-year drop in 2020, was the largest decline for Two years in life expectancy since 1921-1923.

Deaths from COVID-19 and drug overdoses, most notably synthetic opioids like fentanyl, have been the primary drivers of decreased life expectancy. Deaths by suicide and liver disease or cirrhosis caused by alcohol have also increased — shortening the average life span of Americans.

guess what? The longer you live, the longer you live.

The above statistics about the dramatic decline in life expectancy are for everyone of all ages. However, the most recent data from the CDC found that for the average 65-year-old, life expectancy hasn’t changed much, if at all.

  • The average life expectancy for both sexes is 18.4 years (83.4 years). This is a decrease of just 1 year over the previous year.
  • For men, the average life expectancy is 17 years (82 years). This has not changed from the previous year.
  • For women, the average life expectancy is 19.7 years (84.7 years). This represents a one-year decrease from the previous year.

Longevity and net worth

guess what? People with more money live longer, on average.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that wealth leads to a longer life. But the details of the duration may surprise you. Harvard researchers found that the richest American men live 15 years longer than the poorest, while the richest American women live 10 years longer than the poorest. This is a huge gap.

One of the study’s authors, David Cutler, Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics, was quoted as saying, “There is no income [above] in which higher income is not associated with increased longevity, and no lower income is not associated with lower survival.” He continued, “It was already known that life expectancy increases with income, so we are not the first to show that, But… everyone thought you had to plateau at some point, or it would plateau at the bottom, but that’s not the case.”

Another study from Northwestern University used data from the MedLife Project in the US, which focuses on aging. They found that for every $50,000 accumulated by middle age, the risk of death decreases by 5%. In addition, people who saved $139,000 or more increased their chances of survival over siblings by 13%.

CDC data shows that life expectancy varies greatly between countries. Let’s take a look at the states with the longest life expectancy from birth and also for those over the age of 65.

The state with the longest life expectancy at birth is Hawaii at 80.7 years. Whereas people in the state with the lowest life expectancy, Mississippi, only live to an average of 71.9 — a difference of 8 years.

The other four states with the lowest life expectancy are also in the South: West Virginia (72.8), Alabama (73.5), Louisiana (73.1) and Kentucky (73.5).

Besides Hawaii, the other nine largest states for longevity are more regionally diverse: Minnesota (79.1), Vermont (78.8), Washington (79.2), New Hampshire (79), Utah (78.6), Colorado (78.3), Massachusetts ( 79), California (79), and Oregon (78.8).

Hawaii also ranks highest in terms of life expectancy after age 65, with the oldest residents living to age 86 on average. The other top 10 states are: California (84.5), Vermont (84.5), Washington (84.5), Oregon (84.3), Florida (84.2), New Hampshire (84.1), Minnesota (84.1), Colorado (84), and Maine. (84).

Mississippi is again at the bottom. Although in that state the average life expectancy from age 65 is 81.1, about 9 years longer than the average life expectancy from birth.

Academic researchers at various universities are studying differences in life expectancy.

The World Population Review found associations on a variety of factors that may indicate why life expectancy varies from country to country. They found that:

  • There is an exact match between the states with the lowest life expectancy and those with the highest levels of poverty. People with lower income levels have more difficulty accessing health care and experience stressors that negatively affect life expectancy.
  • Among the states with the longest life expectancy, six had the lowest percentage of people with incomes below the poverty level.
  • There is some correlation between life expectancy and:
    • education levels. Countries with higher levels of education tend to have residents who live longer.
    • Smoking and obesity levels.
    • Access to and affordability of health care.

The researchers also found that differences in life expectancy between countries have widened in recent years, as state politics have become more polarized. In general, states whose policies have become more liberal have added years to their population’s lives more quickly, while states whose policies have deviated from conservative ones have seen slower gains in life expectancy.

While where you live and how much money you have can affect how long you live, it’s not your destiny. And while your genetic make-up may be a strong determinant of longevity, your physical, cognitive, emotional, environmental, social and spiritual health can help increase how long you will live.

A positive mindset helps, too. People who have negative attitudes about aging shorten their life expectancy by 7.5 years according to research from Yale University.

Do you know what positive thinking can help? A written financial plan that you feel good about. Use the NewRetirement Planner to find your way to a long, healthy and financially secure life.

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