There have been moments – fleeting, I will admit – when I have wished I knew when I will die. The key word in that sentence is “fleeting” - a momentary lapse in sanity while contemplating end-of-life choices and the difficulty of planning anything without an expiration date.
I'm guessing most people don't even experience that minor lapse, that few are interested in knowing when their lives end.
Last month, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a state-specific report on healthy life expectancy for people age 65 between the years of 2007 and 2009. The agency describes life expectancy as the
“average remaining years of life a person can expect to live on the basis of the current mortality rates for the population.”
Here is a map ranking the states by such life expectancy. (Click map for larger version)
There is a wide variance in years between the state with the longest post-65 healthy life expectancy and the shortest. Hawaii's, at 16.2 years, is the longest compared to the shortest in Mississippi – 10.8 years.
Note that these statistics are for healthy life expectancy which is what the CDC was concerned in this report. Life expectancy without regard for health is 21.3 years in Hawaii and 17.5 in Mississippi.
You can check out your state in a chart at the CDC (scroll about halfway down the page).
There are also differences between the sexes and races along the lines you would expect. Women's life expectancy is longer than men's by about three years in every state.
Data on age at death for blacks is missing in some states so a national average is difficult. The largest difference in healthy life expectancy between whites and blacks, reports the CDC, is 7.8 years in Iowa.
According to the CDC, among the important factors that influence a person's health as they get older are
- Safe and healthy living environments
- Healthy behaviors (e.g., exercise and not smoking)
- Getting the recommended clinical preventive services (e.g., vaccines, cancer screenings, and blood pressure checks)
- Having access to good quality health care when it is needed
That last one is tricky if you assume – as I do – that good quality health care throughout one's life contributes to healthy longevity.
Of course you noticed in that map above that the states with the lowest healthy life expectancy are the poorest which gives increased meaning to getting Obamacare implemented so that millions more can afford to see a doctor.
My state, Oregon, is among the longest lived but I question how useful the information is by state when I've lived here for about three years, spent four years before this in Maine and a previous 40 years in New York.
Nevertheless, most of us like statistics and at the ages of most of us at this blog, we are more concerned with this particular statistic than many younger people. If I go with the Oregon number, I've got eight more years of healthy life and six months fewer if I use the New York number.
You can get more information, see some other charts and read all the exceptions, limitations and qualifications at the CDC report.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: The State of Relationships