On average, Scott Countians die three years younger than other Tennesseans, and six years younger than other Americans.
That is one of the conclusions of a new study published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine, in which researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation looked at death certificates from 1980 through 2014.
According to the averages derived from that research, life expectancy in Scott County is 73.4 years, below the state life expectancy of 76.3 years and the national life expectancy of 79 years.
Scott County’s relatively low life expectancy paled in comparison to some areas of the Dakotas — such as Oglala Lakota County, S.D., where life expectancy is barely Social Security eligibility — along with poor, rural counties in western Mississippi and in the coal country of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.
But Scott County’s life expectancy is also well below Tennessee’s highest, which is 81.9 years in Williamson County, an affluent suburb of Nashville. In fact, only two Tennessee counties have lower life expectancies than Scott County: Cocke County, at 73.2 years, and Grundy County, at 72.5 years.
Researchers said geographic disparities in life expectancy among U.S. counties are large — greater than 20 years, in some cases — and increasing. They blamed socioeconomic and ethnic factors, along with behavioral traits and health care trends.
A county-by-county comparison map prepared by the University of Washington illustrated that the worst performing region of the U.S. for life expectancy is the Southeast, with the exception of urban centers such as the greater Atlanta area and affluent south Florida, where life expectancies exceed the national average and are far outpacing other counties within the same states. In Union County, Fla., a tiny county of 15,000 people just north of Gainesville, life expectancy is more than 13 years shorter than it is in Miami-Dade County.
Similar disparities can be found in Kentucky. Life expectancy in Breathitt County, the heart of eastern Kentucky's coal country, barely cracks 70 years, while residents in the Lexington area have a life expectancy of nearly 80 years.
Researchers recommended "policy action targeting socioeconomic factors and behavioral and metabolic risk factors" to help "reverse the trend of increasing disparities in life expectancy."