Where Americans Live Longest — and Die Earliest

golden years
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Many things affect individual longevity — genetics, smoking, drinking alcohol, lack of nutrition, stress and the luck of the draw to name a few. But as a recent study suggests, the life expectancy in different states varies pretty dramatically when you look at the population as a whole.

In April, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that ranks life expectancy at birth for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. They found that those born in the top-scoring state can expect to live 6.5 years longer than those in the lowest.

“There are wide differences in the burden of disease at the state level,” the study notes. “Specific diseases and risk factors, such as drug use disorders, high BMI, poor diet, high fasting plasma glucose level, and alcohol use disorders are increasing and warrant increased attention. These data can be used to inform national health priorities for research, clinical care, and policy.”

So it’s not that being born in (spoiler!) Mississippi shaves years off of your life, it’s that Mississippi residents have higher rates of behaviors that tend to shorten a lifespan.

Here’s the list from lowest to highest for life expectancy at birth as of 2016, the most recent year for which the study had data.

51. Mississippi

Fishing boats in Biloxi, Mississippi
CrackerClips Stock Media / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 74.7 years

The Magnolia State landed at the bottom of the list. The average life expectancy for those born in Mississippi is 6.5 years less than those born in the state that tops the rankings. It’s the only state with an average life expectancy below 75 years.

50. West Virginia

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 75.3 years

Residents of West Virginia don’t live much longer, on average, than those in Mississippi, but the life expectancy there does manage to top 75 years.

49. Alabama

Beach chairs on beach
Darryl Vest / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 75.4 years

Mississippi’s neighbor, Alabama, is third from the bottom of the list with an average life expectancy for its residents of 75.4 years, just slightly longer than West Virginia.

48. Louisiana

New Orleans street scene
Michael Rosebrock / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 75.4 years

Louisiana, home of lively New Orleans, sits with many of its Southern neighbors near the bottom of the list, also with an average life expectancy of 75.4 years.

47. Oklahoma

Oklahoma Route 66
Peek Creative Collective / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 75.7 years

Residents of the Sooner State of Oklahoma have an average life expectancy of 75.7 years.

46. Kentucky

Woman petting horse
Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 75.8 years

The Bluegrass State of Kentucky, a horse racing haven, has residents who live an average of 75.8 years.

45. Arkansas

Man fishing in Arkansas lake
Bonita R. Cheshier / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 75.8 years

Arkansas is tied with Kentucky with an average life expectancy of 75.8 years.

44. Tennessee

Street scene, Memphis, Tennessee.
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 76.1 years

Residents of Tennessee, home to the Music City of Nashville, have an average life expectancy of 76.1 years.

43. South Carolina

Charleston Market crowded with visitors.
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 76.8 years

Scenic South Carolina, the Palmetto State, has residents who live an average of 76.8 years.

42. Indiana

Parade in Indianapolis for Indy 500
Roberto Galan / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 77.2 years

Indiana, home of the world-famous Indianapolis 500, is the first state to motor above an average life expectancy of 77 years, coming in at 77.2 years.

41. Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 77.4 years

The Peach State of Georgia’s average life expectancy comes in at 77.4 years.

40. Missouri

Lane V. Erickson / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 77.4 years

Residents in Midwestern Missouri join those in Southern Georgia in having an average life expectancy of 77.4 years.

39. Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio skyline at dusk.
Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 77.5 years

Residents of the Buckeye State of Ohio have an average life expectancy of 77.5 years.

38. New Mexico

Hot air balloons in New Mexico
Tim Pleasant / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 77.8 years

Homer Simpson once exclaimed, “There’s a NEW Mexico?” There is indeed. Residents of this Southwestern state have an average life expectancy of 77.8 years.

37. North Carolina

Wilmington, North Caroline seaside walkway
J. Bicking / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 77.9 years

North Carolinians live, on average, more than a year longer than their neighbors in South Carolina.

36. Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78 years

It’s not a state, but the study still included the nation’s capital. Residents there have an average life expectancy of an even 78 years.

35. Michigan

Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78 years

Like folks in Washington, D.C., Michigan residents’ average life expectancy is an even 78 years.

34. Alaska

Sitka, Alaska waterfront, mountains in background.
Marc Cappelletti / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78.1 years

33. Nevada

Business Stock / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78.1 years

Don’t gamble with your health in Nevada, home of the nation’s gaming and casino capital. Residents there have an average life expectancy of 78.1 years.

32. Wyoming

People kayaking on a lake with a mountain in the background.
B Brown / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78.4 years

Folks from Wyoming’s western mountains to its eastern plains have an average life expectancy of 78.4 years.

31. Texas

Traffic in Austin, Texas
Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78.5 years

Residents of the Lone Star State of Texas can expect an average life expectancy of 78.5 years.

30. Kansas

People in Kansas looking at large pumpkin
mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78.5 years

Like folks who live in Texas, Kansas residents have an average life expectancy of 78.5 years.

29. Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78.5 years

Making it a three-way tie, Pennsylvania is the third state with an average life expectancy of 78.5 years.

28. Delaware

Wilmington, Delaware
Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78.6 years

Delaware earned its nickname “The First State” in 1787, when it was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Residents there have an average life expectancy of 78.6 years.

27. Montana

Men on horses in mountains
outdoorsman / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 78.9 years

The Big Sky Country of Montana is about mid-pack when it comes to life expectancy, with 78.9 years.

26. Maine

Portland, Maine
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79 years

Folks living in picturesque Maine, the state at the nation’s northeast tip, have an average life expectancy of an even 79 years.

25. South Dakota

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Average life expectancy: 79.1 years

It’s not carved in stone, but South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore, has an average life expectancy of 79.1 years.

24. Illinois

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Average life expectancy: 79.1 years

Residents of Illinois, home to the Windy City of Chicago, also have an average life expectancy of 79.1 years.

23. Idaho

Boise, Idaho
Charles Knowles / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.1 years

Idaho joins Illinois and South Dakota in a three-way tie with an average life expectancy of 79.1 years.

22. Virginia

Pedestrians in Alexandria, Virginia
Albert Pego / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.2 years

Virginia, known as the Mother of Presidents because eight U.S. presidents were born there, has an average life expectancy of 79.2 years.

21. Maryland

U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.2

The Old Line State of Maryland also has an average life expectancy of 79.2 years.

20. Nebraska

Omaha at night.
Christopher Boswell / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.4 years
Residents of the Cornhusker State of Nebraska have an average life expectancy of 79.4 years.

19. Arizona

Aerial view of Scottsdale Arizona
Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.5 years

Folks who live in sunny Arizona — where it may be hot, but at least it’s a “dry heat” — have an average life expectancy of 79.5 years.

18. Wisconsin

Seniors in Wisconsin with banner
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.5 years

Residents of Wisconsin, whether cheese lovers or not, also have an average life expectancy of 79.5 years.

17. Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.5 years

Iowa residents join those in nearby Wisconsin and far-off Arizona in having an average life expectancy of 79.5 years.

16. Oregon

Bridge over Willamette River, Oregon
JPL Designs / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.5 years

Out in the Pacific Northwest, a fourth state, Oregon, can boast that its residents have an average life expectancy of 79.5 years.

15. Florida

GagliardiImages / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.6 years

Sunshiny Florida, where many older Americans move after retirement, has an average life expectancy of 79.6 years.

14. Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah
Joe Guetzloff / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.6 years

The Western state of Utah also has an average life expectancy of 79.6 years.

13. Rhode Island

Enfi / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.6 years

Residents of tiny Rhode Island, the smallest state by area, join those in Florida and Utah with an average life expectancy of 79.6 years.

12. North Dakota

North Dakota
ZakZeinert / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.8 years

North Dakotans have an average life expectancy of 79.8 years, higher than their neighbors in South Dakota.

11. New Hampshire

Nashua, New Hampshire
Jon Bilou / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.9 years

New Hampshire ties with North Dakota in having an average life expectancy of 79.9 years.

10. Vermont

Colin D. Young / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 79.9 years

The Green Mountain State of Vermont has an average life expectancy of 79.9 years, the same as North Dakota and Vermont’s own neighbor, New Hampshire.

9. Washington

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Average life expectancy: 80.2 years

The Evergreen State of Washington is the first state on the list with an average life expectancy over 80 years, coming in at 80.2.

8. New Jersey

Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey
ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 80.2 years

New Jersey residents also live longer than eight decades, on average, joining folks a continent away in Washington with a life expectancy of 80.2 years.

7. Colorado

EdgeOfReason / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 80.2 years

Between Washington and New Jersey is another state, Colorado, whose residents have average life expectancy of 80.2 years.

6. Massachusetts

Boston Harbor Hotel / Money Talks News

Average life expectancy: 80.4 years

The Bay State of Massachusetts boasts residents with an average life expectancy of 80.4 years.

5. New York

Fourth of July party
rozbyshaka / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 80.5 years

New York, the Empire State, and home of the City That Never Sleeps, has an average life expectancy of 80.5 years. Just four states left to go!

4. Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota
nikitsin.smugmug.com / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 80.8 years

Scenic Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, has an average life expectancy of 80.8 years. Perhaps all those cold winters keep people there moving enough to get extra exercise?

3. Connecticut

City scene of Hartford, Connecticut
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 80.8 years

Not as cold as Minnesota, Connecticut also has an average life expectancy of 80.8 years.

2. California

People at fresh market in Oakland, California
cdrin / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 80.9 years

The Golden State of California climbed almost to the top of the list, with residents who have an average life expectancy of 80.9 years.

1. Hawaii

aines / Shutterstock.com

Average life expectancy: 81.3 years

And at the top of the list, with an average life expectancy of 81.3 years, is the tropical paradise of Hawaii. Is there a better place to enjoy a long life than on Hawaii’s beautiful beaches?

Where does your state fall in the rankings? Do you think your lifestyle is pretty typical in your state? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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