Sometimes the smaller the town, the longer people live

Jan 24th, 2019 | By | Category: Spotlight

To live longer (at least statistically) in Pierce County, move to Elbe or Carbonado.

According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, residents of Elbe and Carbonado in east Pierce’s foothills have the longest average lifespans – 86 years — of anyone who calls the county home. A study by the department found a correlation between long life and living in small, close-knit communities, such as Elbe (less than 100 residents) and Carbonado (population 600).

“Neighbors who live less than a mile apart can have up to an eight-year difference in life expectancy,” said Dr. L-T Chen, the city-county agency’s director of health.

The lowest life expectancies in Pierce County — 75 years old — are in the Lakewood and Joint Base Lewis-McChord area, Tacoma’s Hilltop and Central neighborhoods, and Vaughn on the Key Peninsula.

Meanwhile, an analysis of King County lifespans by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation concluded that the longest average for men is 86 years in Clyde Hill, and the longest for women is 88 in Seattle’s Bryant neighborhood. The shortest life expectancies were in Auburn in the 72 to 75 range.

Census information indicates that people living in Mercer Island and Bellevue also have some of the highest life expectancies in King County. Across the county, men face an 18-year life expectancy gap across the county (68.4 to 86.7 years). For women, the disparity is 14 years (73.6 to 88.4 years).

The leading causes of earlier deaths include heart disease, lung cancer, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, drug-use disorders, cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases diabetes, and colon and rectum cancer.

The information comes from studies of death rates and life expectancy from 1990 to 2014 by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and Seattle-King County Public Health. Among other things, they found geographic disparities in more than 150 causes of death, such as ischemic heart disease and drug use disorders.

Not everyone has equal opportunities for good health, which can make a difference in how long they live.

For instance, a report by the state Office of Financial Management revealed that of Washington’s 49 state legislative districts, Pierce County’s 29th and 27th districts—which span from Tacoma to Lakewood—have the most hospitalizations that people could have avoided if they had timely and affordable preventative and primary healthcare, such as regular doctor’s visits, prescription medicine, and adult immunizations. Similarly, socioeconomic conditions and quality of housing are factors in how long people live in King County, researchers say.

Chen said the state report highlights obstacles to good health, such as where people live and work. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy behaviors and medical care each account for 20 percent of good health, and genetics are 5 percent of what makes a person healthy. The other 55 percent stems from social, economic and environmental factors.

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