In every state across the country, white men and women are outliving blacks, in some cases by a margin as wide as eight years, says a new life-expectancy study from theUniversity of California, Los Angeles.
In America, a white male born today has a life expectancy of 74.8 years, while black males are expected to live to 67.7, creating a seven-year disparity. Meanwhile, white women can expect to live to 79.8, while their black counterparts have a life expectancy five years shorter, at 74.6 years, said the UCLA report.
Overall, the life-expectancy gap nationwide seems to be narrowing slightly, according to researchers, but it continues to vary widely by state.
In Florida, the longevity gap for women is among the widest of any state, at seven years. The life expectancy here for black women is 74, while it’s 80.9 for white women, said the study, which appeared in this month’s issue of Health Services Research. Life expectancy is defined as how long a person born today is expected to live.
That gap is mostly because white women live longer than average in the Sunshine State, said Dr. Nazleen Bharmal, the study’s lead researcher and a clinical instructor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
The gap for Florida men is in line with the national average: 75.2 years for white males and 67.8 for black males.
Washington, D.C., had the largest disparity between blacks and whites. at 13.8 years for men and 8.6 for women, said the researchers, who studied national death-certificate data from nearly 18 million non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites who died from 1997 to 2004.
New Mexico had the smallest disparity between blacks and whites, at 3.8 years for men and 2.5 for women.
Bharmal warns, however, that although closing the gap is a worthy public-health goal, that shouldn’t be the focus.
Where small disparities in life expectancy exist, that happens because the white populations are doing as poorly as black populations, she said.
“The goal,” said Bharmal, “is not just to eliminate the disparity, but also to help both groups reach optimal life expectancy.”