Life expectancy is one of the most important and commonly cited indicators of population health -- and in the United States, life expectancy is falling at a historic rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy at birth declined by 1.5 years in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II.
The CDC attributes the decline to the COVID-19 pandemic and 93,000 drug overdose deaths -- an all-time one-year high. Homicide, diabetes, and liver disease were also contributing factors. Here is a look at the states with the most drug overdose deaths in 2020.
While the national trend is alarming, there are considerable regional variations in life expectancy across the country.
As of 2019, the most recent available year of state-level data, life expectancy at birth in Alaska is 79.0 years, the 26th highest among states and in line with the comparable national average of 79.2 years.
Both at an individual and population level, variations in life expectancy are closely linked to certain economic and behavioral factors. For example, risk factors such as obesity can increase the likelihood of certain deadly diseases and conditions. Meanwhile, economic factors, such as income, can impact life expectancy as higher-income Americans are better able to afford adequate health care and a range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle.
In Alaska, the 31.9% obesity rate is considerably higher than the 29.7% national rate. However, the median household income in the state of $75,463 is also well above the national median of $65,712.
Data on average life expectancy at birth is from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program's 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report. Additional data is from both CHR and the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey.
|Rank||State||Life expectancy at birth (yrs.)||Adults who smoke (%)||Median household income ($)||Poverty rate (%)|