Virginia's life expectancy has increased over the last two decades and is close to the national average.
Why is This Important?
Life expectancy is a measure of the overall health of the population. It represents the average number of years of life that could be expected if current death rates were to remain constant.
How is Virginia Doing?
Over the last 25 years, life expectancy in the United States increased from 70.8 to 76.1 years for men and from 77.8 to 80.8 years for women. In 2010, Virginia ranked 25th nationally for male life span --76.3 years and slightly above the national average of 76.1 years. Life expectancy for men was higher than peer states North Carolina and Tennessee but lower than Maryland (77.8 years). Female life expectancy was 80.7, ranking 26th nationally and slightly below the national average of 80.8 years. Female life expectancy was higher in Maryland (80.8 years) but lower in Tennessee (78.7) and North Carolina (79.8).
Average life expectancy has also increased in each of Virginia's regions during the last twenty-five years. In 2010, the highest male and female life expectancies were found in the Northern region (79.9 years and 83.2 years), followed by the Valley region (76.0 years and 80.5 years). The lowest life expectancy for males occurred in the Southside region (72.4), while the lowest female life expectancy occured in the Southwest region (78.0 years).
From 1985 to 2010, averages for life expectancy advanced the most in the Northern and Central regions; males gained 6.6 years and 6.4 years, respectively, while females gained 4.8 years and 3.9 years. Overall state averages saw an increase of 6 years in male life expectancy and 3.6 years for women.
What Influences Life Expectancy?
Life expectancy at birth is influenced by infant and child mortality rates. Biologically, gender affects longevity, as females tend to live longer than males. Life expectancy later in life reflects death rates at or above a given age. Improvements in nutrition, housing, hygiene and medical care contribute to decreases in death rates throughout the lifespan. Access to health care, advances in medicine, healthier lifestyles and better health before age 65 have contributed to the decline in death rates among older Americans.
What is the State's Role?
There are a number of ways state government can help to improve the overall health of the population. For example, the state can provide education and information on healthy lifestyles, encourage medical research, and assist the poor or uninsured with obtaining healthcare.
State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.
Data and Definitions
Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)
Regional Life Expectancy:
Regional life expectancies were computed by weighting IHME county male and female life expectancy estimates by corresponding county male and female populations estimates from National Cancer Institute, Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Population Data
Falling behind: life expectancy in US counties from 2000 to 2007 in an international context, Kulkari, SC, A Levin-Rector, M Ezzati, and CJL Murray, Population Health Metrics, Vol 9, 2011
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.