Study: Black Life Expectancy in the U.S. Still Significantly Lower Than Whites; Why?

March 22, 2012  |  

Although the racial gaps in many areas of life are closing slightly in the U.S., research says that there is still a significant gap in black life expectancy compared to that of our white counterparts. In a newly released Health Services Research study conducted by UCLA, blacks continue to live shorter lives than whites in every state in the U.S. on average, as white females live five years longer than black females and white men live seven years longer than black males.

As a part of the university’s study, the disparities are broken down by state and the average life expectancy years in between the two races. New Mexico, with the smallest disparity, has a gap of 3.76 years for men and 2.45 years for women as the average life span difference. The nation’s capital, Washington D.C., has the largest life expectancy gap, with white females living 8.55 years longer than black females and a shocking 13.77 years between the lives of the average black and white males living in the District.

The discouraging study concludes that eliminating disparities in states with the largest African-American population would impact these numbers drastically, a positive solution for the following 10 U.S. states where over 58 percent of the country’s blacks reside: New York, California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Maryland, Missouri and Louisiana. In contrast, states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington reported smaller year gaps in life expectancy, but coincidentally, these smaller numbers were not the result of blacks with longer life span, but due to whites with shorter life spans than the national average.

With the national average life expectancy being 74.79 years for white men and 67.66 years for black men and 79.84 years for white women in comparison to 74.64 years for black women, it is clear that the statistical odds of living longer than whites in many states seems bleak.

Various factors have led to these figures that work against our community as a whole, as well as the quality of life. Experts note that key factors impact the life span of the average American, which include accessibility to health care, HIV/AIDS, homicide, obesity, diabetes and other health and life risks that are statistically proven to be disproportionately more present in the black community.

According to the study, the accessibility to health care plays a major role, stating:

“Federal and state health policies that simply concentrate on the black–white difference in a geographic region may miss important opportunities to improve overall population health or significantly reduce disparity at the national level… Blacks make up a disproportionate percentage of the low-income, Medicaid-eligible population, and we found that Massachusetts and New York, two states where black populations have longer-than-expected life expectancy, are also the states that have expanded Medicaid coverage.”

Knowing that these factors play a key role in our life span more so than they do for others in America, we must be conscious of our health and well-being in order to live more healthy and longer. That includes everything from evaluating our eating habits and our lifestyle choices, being aware of our bodies inside and out, having access to healthcare, helping slow violent crimes in our communities and a lot more.

Are we doing enough as a community to live longer? How can we combat this issue with our lifestyles to close the gap?

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