KSJ Tracker April 22, 2008

Lots of Ink: Life expectancy, esp. among (overweight, badly nourished, hypertensive, cigarette smoking?) women drops in many US regions

Harvard and University of Washington epidemiologists and colleagues have out in PLoS Medicine a few stunning maps to back their discovery of a striking pattern of declining life expectancies among American, with women affected most profoundly. It is seen, reports the Washington Post's David Brown, most clearly in rural and low-income areas, with heaviest concentration in the Deep South, Appalachia, and lower Midwest (plus one county in Maine). Data extend for such fine analysis extend only to 2000. The patterns could be, Brown adds, "the leading edge of the obesity epidemic" combined with diabetes, lung cancer and emphysema from smoking, and kidney failure. Nothing like this, he adds, has been seen for nearly 100 years. Men, for reasons unclear except perhaps they've been smoking more and longer, don't show much shift. Plus, their longevity still, in aggregate, trails that of women. The post's account is hardly the only one, as the story is boosted by press releases and full, open access to the journal report (see Grist). Grist for the Mill:
PLoS paper ; Harvard Sch. of Pub. Hlth Press Release ; PloS Press Release ; LiveScience Christopher Wanjek writes the trends are "in contrast to all other industrailized nations" ; St. Louis Post-Dispatch Aisha Sultan ; NY Times Nicholas Bakalar (also tracked in ScienceTimes post, scroll down) ; Seattle Post-Intelligencer Tom Paulson ; USA Today Janet Kornblum has a nifty graphic but it shows absolute life expectancy, not the more striking change in trends ; SF Chronicle Sabin Russell has the right graphic, showing the startling disparity in trends among men and women in many regions ;
Pic: from NYTimes. Higher res, more info in PLoS paper, see Grist.