New Yorkers Living Longer Than Ever, Outpacing National Trend, a look at the data

New Yorkers Living Longer Than Ever, Outpacing National Trend – speaking of life expectancy:

From 2000 to 2009, New York City life expectancy rate at birth increased by nearly 3 years, far greater than the nationwide increase of nearly 1.5 years. The life expectancy of both men (78 years) and women (83 years) increased.

Since I had just reviewed this article on life expectancy of US counties, I pulled the supplemental data on New York (note, this analysis ends at 2007), and here’s what it shows (click to enlarge):

From: “Kulkarni et al 2011 Falling behind life expectancy in US counties from 2000 to 2007 in an international context”

New York county is indeed just 1 year behind the 10 international countries with the highest life expectancies in the world, up from being 6 years behind in 2000. For women, there is also improvement, from 7 years to 3 years behind.

When you plot this on a map (thanks again, Community Commons !), you can see nearby county Queens also enjoying a high life expectancy (1 year ahead and 3 years behind international peers for men and women, respectively:

Life Expectancy, New York City and adjacent counties (note data source, not as current as NYC’s data, this is just for relevant comparison)

You can also see, though, that Bronx county is not as fortunate, with its 2007 data showing a 21 year and 18 year lag in life expectancy advancement compared to its international peers (see table and image together).

As I read the information linked in the press release above, it appears that New York City has genuinely adopted a social view toward improving the health of its society (and my past visits support this):

The City’s health interventions – including its smoking prevention programs and expanded HIV testing and treatment – have contributed to this success, with improved outcomes in HIV infection, heart disease and cancer prevention and treatment playing the largest role in the increase in life expectancy.

So, They appear to cite success in improving their health system, and that there is more to be done…

Going beyond life expectancy as a measure of health

If you’d like to do some sleuthing on your own, you can go to the Community Commons site and overlay lots and lots of data over these counties to understand what the differences might be.

You can also saunter over to County Health Rankings and compare counties for dimensions beyond life expectancy. You can see a comparison I set up here between New York, Bronx, and Queens, and when you factor in other factors, you can see more nuances, such as New York City’s lower unemployment rate, higher education rate, but also higher reported “poor or fair health” self-assessment, higher poorer physical health and mental health days relative to Putnam county (the leader), and more children in poverty and higher air pollution days, that balance things out. County Health rankings scores New York City above average (25 out of 62) for Health Outcomes, and leading for Health Factors (9 out of 62). Bronx is 62 out of 62 in both.

I would less lament that a subway trip to Bronx County from New York results in a drop in life expectancy than I would celebrate that a subway trip into New York City brings knowledge about what’s successful in improving health (glass 3/4 full). It seems like New York is on a good track, improving clinical care access, and next understanding the impact of the social environment beyond health care:

We will keep working to make New York City a healthier environment, which will not only lengthen life expectancy but also improve the quality of life of New Yorkers.

See what you think, post in the comments.

Thanks to Emily Hackel ( @emilyhackel ) for the tweet that started this exploration.


@tedeytan intrigued by concept of ‘going beyond life expectancy as measure of health’….need to noodle more on this 🙂

@emilyhackel May need disability-free life expectancy or similar.People want to achieve life goals, not just live long, right?

Ted Eytan, MD