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From 1983 to 1999 life expectancy in many US counties decreased, especially for women (183 counties) while life expectancy for all Americans grew by 7 years for men and 6 years for women from 1960 to 2000. The last time US life expectancy experienced any decline was in the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. The authors of a study published today in the peer-reviewed, open access journal PLoS, blame a slowdown in preventing deaths from heart disease together with a modest rise in diabetes, lung cancer and other lung diseases. The researchers found disparities in life expectancy between US counties growing since 1983 after declining for decades. Four percent of American men and 19% of US women experienced either a decline or stagnation of life expectancy between 1983 and 2000. The 183 counties with declining life expectancy for women had lower average incomes, fewer residents who complete high school and a higher proportion of black residents than counties with increasing life expectancy. Counties with declines were clustered in the Deep South, Appalachia, the lower Midwest and one county in Maine.
Ellen Andrews