Location really IS everything! A study performed by University of Texas researchers produced surprising results, showing that the average life expectancy in Harris County varies wildly by zip code. In fact, there was a difference of twenty years between the longest and the shortest life expectancy.
Not surprisingly, the poorest zip codes had the shortest life expectancy, due to serious social factors like reduced access to healthcare and nutritious food, as well as high crime and worse infant mortality rates that can greatly affect the average.
This study was completed based on the analysis of 1.6 million death certificates from 2006 to 2015 and assumed that an infant born in that time period will live in the same zip code the entire duration of their life, which is rarely the case in reality. Women were found to live an average of 5.2 years longer than men, regardless of race. Living in a high-poverty area takes six years off the average life span. Those living in an area with less than 5% poverty live an average of 82.4 years, significantly above average.
The results of the study were quite surprising to the researchers, who had expected a discrepancy between neighborhoods but not the magnitude of the difference.
According to Sandi Pruitt, a UT Southwestern Medical Center professor of population and data science and the research’s lead investigator, “We know that where you live is predictive of health, but the degree of variation in this study was quite striking. A 10-year difference within a region is insane.”
The UT researchers hope that the results will get people’s attention and motivate officials to work to determine why this phenomenon is happening and address the root causes.
In case you were wondering, the average for 77008 was 80.9 years overall, broken down into 83.8 for women and 77.6 for men. The highest life expectancy in Harris County was 89.7, in the 77073 zip code near Bush Intercontinental Airport, while the lowest, 69.7, is the 77026 area, which encompasses Kashmere Gardens northeast of downtown. The average life expectancy in Texas as a whole clocked in at 78.5 years. An interactive map allows users to break down the statistics by gender, race, and zip code.