Residents of the South, regardless of race, and blacks throughout the United States, have lower healthy life expectancy at age 65, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy life expectancy, or HLE, is a population health measure that estimates expected years of life in good health for people at a given age.

The CDC used 2007–2009 data from the National Vital Statistics Systems, U.S. Census Bureau and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to calculate HLEs by gender and race for each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for all people aged 65.

For all adults at age 65, the highest HLE was observed in Hawaii (16.2 years) and the lowest was in Mississippi (10.8 years). By race, HLE estimates for whites were lowest among Southern states. For blacks, HLE was comparatively low throughout the country, except in Nevada and New Mexico. HLE was greater for females than for males in all states, with the difference ranging from 0.7 years in Louisiana to 3.1 years in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Other findings:

  • HLE was greater for whites than for blacks in all states and Washington, D.C., except Nevada and New Mexico.
  • HLE for males at age 65 varied between a low of 10.1 years in Mississippi and a high of 15.0 years in Hawaii.
  • HLE for females at age 65 varied between a low of 11.4 years in Mississippi and a high of 17.3 years in Hawaii.

HLE estimates can predict future health service needs, evaluate health programs, and identify trends and inequalities. Public health officials, health care providers and policymakers can use HLE to monitor and understand the health status of a population.

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