CALIFORNIA — California has the nation’s second highest life expectancy, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to 2019 data, Californians live an average of 80.9 years, trailing only Hawaii in life expectancy, and it’s very close. California has the same average life expectancy as Hawaii, and men in California have the highest average life expectancy in the country at 78.4 years, ahead of Hawaii’s 78.0 years.
Hawaii eeks out ahead because women in California live an average of 83.3 years, while women in Hawaii live an average of 83.9 years.
Aside from Hawaii, California handily outperforms its neighbors: Washingtonians live an average of 80 years, while Oregonians on average live to 79.6. Arizona’s average age is 78.8, while Nevada’s is 78.
Here are the top 10 states:
New York (80.7)
New Jersey (80.1)
And the bottom 10:
South Carolina (76.8)
West Virginia (74.5)
The average U.S. life expectancy at birth in 2019 was 78.8 years, up 0.1 percent from 2018, according to death records in U.S. states analyzed by the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is not particularly impressive by international standards: according to United Nations Population Division 2022 estimates, the U.S. ranks 46th in the world in life expectancy: just behind Cuba, and just ahead of Panama. At the top of the list are Hong Kong (85.3 years), Japan (85.03), Macao (84.7), and Switzerland (84.2.)
People living in Hawaii lived an average of 80.9 years — 83.9 years for women and 78 years for men. Even so, the life expectancy in the Aloha State went down by about a month from 2018, the report found.
In Mississippi, ranked 51st among states and the District of Columbia, the average life expectancy was 74.4 years — 77.6 years for women and 71.2 years for men.
Importantly, the report released Thursday does not reflect COVID-19 mortality rates, which CDC officials said in December cut life expectancy by nearly two years, the largest one-year drop since World War II.
States with the lowest life expectancy at birth are mostly Southern states, and states with the highest life expectancy at birth are predominantly Western and Northeastern states, the report said.
The report didn’t address the disparities, but report author Dr. Elizabeth Arias, the director of U.S. Life Tables at the National Center for Health Statistics, offered some theories in an interview with ABC News.
“Well, we do know that mortality from the leading causes of death like heart disease, cancer, stroke, accidents, tends to be higher in the states in the South and the Southeast than in New England, for instance, and the Western states,” she said. “Smoking prevalence is also higher in the Southern states. I believe there are also higher rates of poverty throughout [the South].”
California, New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts, respectively, rounded out the top five states for life expectancy.
Other states in the bottom ranking were West Virginia (50), Alabama (49), Kentucky (48) and Tennessee (47).
Nationally, women live 5.1 years longer than men. The disparity is greater in Mississippi than anywhere else in the United States at 6.4 years, and the shortest is in Utah at 3.5 years. Women outlive men in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
California, which ranks No. 2 in life expectancy overall, ranked first for males, with a life expectancy of 78.4 years.
West Virginia ranked 51st among females, with a life expectancy at birth of 77.3 years.
The report didn’t address the disparities in life expectancies between men and women. However, Arias told ABC News smoking is likely the primary reason.
Historical data shows the disparity between the sexes was as high as 7.8 years in 1978, Arias said.
“So, males took up smoking a lot earlier than females did and with much higher prevalence,” she said. “But then, over the decades, females began to smoke close to levels that men smoked. And, as men have been quitting, women have followed but not at the same pace."
Researchers also looked at life expectancy after age 65. In Hawaii, people who are 65 years old can expect to live another 21.2 years on average. In Mississippi, they can expect to live another 17.5 years.
Other findings from the report:
Life expectancy declined in 14 states between 2018 and 2019, ranging from one month to six months. Those states were South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Arkansas, Maine, Montana, Iowa, Mississippi, Connecticut, Oregon, Hawaii and Minnesota.
Five states had no change in life expectancy, and 31 states and the District of Columbia saw increases in life expectancy between one and six months.
The preliminary 2020 mortality data released early last year showed COVID-19 cut life expectancy by 1.8 years in 2020, and that people of color were disproportionately affected.
“We normally don’t see declines of life expectancy of this magnitude,” Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics, told NBC News in December. “Usually when we see fluctuations in life expectancy, it’s only for a couple months of the year, so this is quite significant.”
Overall, the life expectancy at birth was 77 years in 2020 — 74.2 years for males and 79.9 for females, according to the December report.
Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, told NBC at the time “one of the most jolting things in the report is the racial disparities.”
Death rates for Black and Hispanic Americans increased precipitously in 2020 — 43 percent and 32 percent for Hispanic males and females, respectively, and 28 percent and 25 percent for Black males and females, respectively.
That compares with an increase in death rates of 13 percent for white males and 12 percent for white females.
“That just shouldn’t be happening,” Woolf told NBC News. “There is this deeply embedded health consequence of systemic racism.”