Why red state residents are more likely to die young: journalist

Why red state residents are more likely to die young: journalist

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, red states tend to have some of the lowest life expectancy rates in the U.S. — for example, 74 in West Virginia and Mississippi and 75 in Alabama in 2019 compared to 80 in blue states that include California, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Conservative Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, in a March 17 column, delves into some of the reasons why Americans are more likely to die young in red states.

“It should come as no surprise that the highest rates for COVID-19 deaths and murders are found mainly in red states,” Rubin argues. “A political mindset that prioritizes racial resentment, anti-science zealotry and manufactured cultural wedge issues is not likely to be conducive to long, healthy lives. Indeed, antagonism toward ‘elites’ — e.g., experts — often impedes common-sense measures that save lives.”

Rubin notes what Stephen H. Woolf, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, had to say about life expectancy in an article published by the Journal of American Medicine on March 11. Woolf reported, “Disparities in health across the 50 states are growing, a trend that began in the 1990s. For example, in 1990, life expectancy in New York was lower than in Oklahoma, but the trajectories separated sharply in the 1990s — and by 2016, New York ranked third in life expectancy, whereas Oklahoma ranked 45th.”

According to Woolf, “Conservative governors increasingly use preemption, the authority to override local governments, to block liberal health policies — e.g., indoor smoking bans. States have preempted local regulations on nutrition — e.g., menu labeling, food deserts — and as of 2013, 45 states had enacted statutes to limit local firearm regulations.”

Being a red state doesn’t necessarily mean having lower life expectancy. Utah is a deep red state, and its life expectancy, according to CDC data, was 79 in 2019. But the overall pattern is one in which blue state residents are more likely to live longer and red state residents are more likely to die younger.

The CDC figures for 2019 don’t reflect the COVID-19 pandemic, which started in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and didn’t spread to the United States in a big way until 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a pattern that existed before the pandemic: Republicans failing to take the health of their voters seriously.

“Eight of the ten states with the highest COVID death rates adjusted for age have Republican governors: Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, Arkansas and Indiana,” Rubin observes, citing data published by the Biometrics CRO on March 16. “Nevada and Kentucky are the exceptions, coming in 6th and 10th, respectively. Similarly, nine of the ten states with the worst vaccination rates — Wyoming, Mississippi, Louisiana, Idaho, Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, West Virginia and North Dakota — have GOP governors. Of these, only Louisiana is led by a Democrat, and all of them voted for defeated former President Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.”

Rubin wraps up her column by stressing that Republicans need to quit emphasizing culture war nonsense and concentrate on policies that promote longer life.

“It’s clear the governing philosophy of right-wing states — e.g., low spending; prioritization of cultural wedge issues; anti-elitism — leads to deadly results,” Rubin argues. “Maybe it’s time they stop spending their political energy persecuting gay kids, banning books, outlawing abortion and fanning culture wars. They have plenty of systemic problems they’ve failed to address while busying themselves with MAGA crusades. Red-state voters should look around and see why their states have fallen so far behind in so many categories.”

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