According to a report released today, New Yorkers can now look forward to an average life expectancy of 79.2 years, up 4.3 years from 1991 to 2004—the largest increase for residents of any state. Yay us! The Manhattan Institute’s Center for Medical Progress report found that, while life expectancy increased by 2.33 years nation-wide, there are major state-to-state differences. Residents of Louisiana and Mississippi, for example, can expect to croak at 74.2, years before longest-living Hawaiians, who, on average, will hit the ripe old age of 81.3. Poor Louisiana; first they’re shunned by Britney and now this. New York residents came in at a respectable 11th nationwide.
But why is it that some states so drastically outlive others? We spoke to Frank Lichtenberg, the author of the study and a professor at Columbia University’s School of Business. “In principle, there could be a lot of factors that are playing a role including income, education, health insurance access,” he said. But, he found that what really makes the difference in determining a state’s life expectancy is medical innovation—specifically the use of new drugs. “Generally new products tend to be of higher quality than older products.” He also noted that, while newer drug use in a state is associated with higher drug expenditures, it does not necessarily lead to higher medical costs. “This flies in the face of the assumption that medical innovation increases overall medical expenditures,” he said. It should be noted that the drug-touting Lichtenberg has received funding from the pharmaceutical industry in the past, though he said that his methods and data are well documented and “speak for themselves.”
As many experts point out, however, living long can be expensive. Some, like New York Life Insurance senior vice president Michael Gallo, worry that seniors may be outliving their retirement savings. Kathy O’Brien, a senior gerontologist at the MetLife Mature Market Institute, warned that added years often amount to high medical bills. “While people are living longer, it doesn’t mean that they are living more healthy,” she told the Sun. Thanks, guys, we were almost enjoying the good news before you had to go and ruin everything with practical implications.
Photo courtesy of PetroleumJelliffe on Flickr