DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists said they have for the first time, calculated and mapped life expectancy by gender and race/ethnicity down to the ZIP code and county levels in Texas.
The new analysis and interactive mapping tool, which uses data from the Texas Department of State Health Services Center for Health Statistics 2005-2014 death records, reveal dramatic variation by gender, race/ethnicity and geography, according to a UT Southwestern news release Tuesday, February 26.
The study by Dr. Sandi Pruitt found the shortest average life span of 66 years was in Fort Worth just south of downtown.
The longest was in the town of Hutto outside Austin with an average life expectancy of 97 years.
Lower income areas had lower numbers but the disparity surprised Doctor Pruitt who says the purpose of the study was not to look for causes but rather encourage more research to investigate them.
“The goal of the study was to throw the doors wide-open to give Texans access to information they would not have normally had about the health of their communities and really to shed light on the extreme disparities in health and well-being that we have in the state,” said Dr. Pruitt.
Highlights from the study include:
Life expectancy was longest – 97.0 years – in the 78634 ZIP code in Hutto, Texas (near Austin) and was shortest – 66.7 years – in the 76104 ZIP code in Fort Worth.
Overall, life expectancy in Texas varied as much as 30 years between ZIP codes.
Women’s overall life expectancy was 5.2 years longer than men’s.
Hispanic, black, and white women had longer life expectancies than their male counterparts.
Hispanic life expectancy was 3 years longer than white life expectancy and 5.9 years longer than black life expectancy.
Life expectancy was strongly associated with poverty: Those living in ZIP codes with less than 5 percent poverty lived an average of 82.4 years, whereas those living in ZIP codes with more than 20 percent poverty lived an average of 76.4 years.
“We knew that where you live is predictive of health, but the degree of variation that we observed in this study was really striking, down to the ZIP code level,” said Dr. Sandi Pruitt, lead investigator of the new study and Assistant Professor in the Department of Population and Data Sciences at UT Southwestern.
Life expectancy at birth is the average number of years that a newborn can expect to live assuming mortality patterns at the time of birth remain constant in the future. Overall life expectancy in Texas is 78.5 years, which means that on average a child born in Texas on Jan. 1, 2019, can expect to live until spring 2097.
Overall life average expectancy for women is 81.1 years compared with 75.9 for men. Life expectancy is 81.2 years for Hispanics, 78.1 years for whites, and 75.3 years for blacks.
“This study sheds important new light on the issue of health disparities,” said Dr. David Lakey, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs for The University of Texas System. “Overall disparities by gender or racial groups are significant, but to truly impact health we need to understand where the disparities are most severe, and to recognize that there is immense geographic variation even within groups.”
Average life expectancy across gender and racial groups include:
Hispanic women – 83.9 years; Hispanic men – 78.28
White women – 80.6; White men – 75.6
Black women – 78.0; Black men – 72.4
The online maps illustrate the variation in life expectancy occurring across geographic areas:
Within Dallas County, for example, county-level life expectancy was 78.3 but ZIP code-level life expectancy ranged from 67.6 (75215) to 90.3 years (75204).
Within Travis County (Austin area), county-level life expectancy was 82.0 but ZIP code-level life expectancy ranged from 75.2 (78721) to 87.5 years (78754).
Within Harris County (Houston area), county-level life expectancy was 78.9 but ZIP code-level life expectancy ranged from 69.8 (77026) to 89.7 years (77073).
Within El Paso County, county-level life expectancy was 79.8, but ZIP code-level life expectancy ranged from 75.6 (79901) to 90.4 years (79928).
Within Bexar County (San Antonio area), county-level life expectancy was 79.1, but ZIP code-level life expectancy ranged from 67.6 (78208) to 89.2 years (78254).
Within Tarrant County (Fort Worth area), county-level life expectancy was 78.7, but ZIP code-level life expectancy ranged from 66.7 (76104) to 87.2 years (76002).
The researchers examined 1.6 million death records to compile the database, focusing on the state’s three largest racial groups: non-Hispanic (NH) whites, blacks (regardless of ethnicity), and Hispanics. The database includes information on 992 ZIP codes in Texas.
To view complete report, click here.
The life expectancy data presented here have several limitations. Life expectancy is calculated with the assumption that mortality patterns remain constant over time, which is not necessarily true. Life expectancy in years is an estimate and reflects the average life expectancy for those living in a particular geographic area. Thus, few people will die at precisely the age indicated by life expectancy; some will die at younger ages and some will die at older ages. Life expectancy is a statistical measure that does not take into account any individual’s lifestyle behaviors or other factors that may contribute to an individual’s life span. Differences in life expectancy between geographic areas do not necessarily indicate that features of any particular area cause shorter or longer life expectancy; these differences may simply reflect differences in the characteristics of the residents in each community. The size of different communities in Texas varies greatly. In general, life expectancy estimates calculated for larger populations may be more stable than those calculated for smaller populations. Finally, the associations observed between socioeconomic factors, race/ethnicity, and life expectancy are not necessarily causal. Individuals of any race/ethnicity or socioeconomic strata may live longer or shorter lives, based on many factors. Despite these limitations, these data demonstrate average differences in life expectancy for communities across Texas. The results can be used to inform and empower future policies and interventions designed to maximize the well-being for all Texans.