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Indiana's Poor Die Younger Than In Other States, Massive Study Finds

Mark Kaletka
/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/markkaletka/

Poor Hoosiers can expect to live a shorter life than a similarly poor person in other states, says a new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

The study, which pulls data from tax and social security records, finds people with lower incomes live shorter lives than those who are more affluent -- though to what extent is correlated with geography.

Indiana joins Nevada and Oklahoma as one of the three states with the lowest life expectancies for the poorest quarter of their populations.

In a ranking of the 100 most populous urban areas, Gary had the lowest life expectancy for the poorest 25 percent of its citizens, at 77.4 years, and Indianapolis had the third-lowest, at 77.6 years.

Lauren McCloskey, IU Professor and Director of the school's Center for Research on Health Disparities, blames Indiana’s hands-off approach to providing welfare for the poor, particularly among children.

“Those conditions are setting the stage ultimately for poor health for obesity and ultimately truncated life expectancy,” she says.

The study’s authors downplay access to healthcare as a factor, but closely tie life expectancy to so-called health behaviors, such as smoking and obesity – both are areas in which Indiana has historically unfavorable rankings.

“Some of these health behaviors are pervasive in the state and they are higher than some of the other states,” McCloskey says. “Not all, but many of the others.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 4 Hoosiers smoke -- the worst rate in the nation. Additionally, a recent Gallup poll indicates about one-third of Hoosiers are obese, landing Indiana on a list of the top ten fattest states in the nation.

The JAMA study also finds inequality in life expectancy increased in recent years, with the richest people seeing their lifespans extend while the poorest saw no change at all.

In Indianapolis, the richest 25 percent of residents now live on average eight-and-a-half years longer than the poorest 25 percent.

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