NEW YORK – A new study offers more compelling evidence that life expectancy for some U.S. women is actually falling, a disturbing trend that experts can’t explain.
The latest research found that women age 75 and younger are dying at higher rates than previous years in nearly half of the nation’s counties – many of them rural and in the South and West. Curiously, for men, life expectancy has held steady or improved in nearly all counties.
The study is the latest to spot this pattern, especially among disadvantaged white women. Some leading theories blame higher smoking rates, obesity and less education. The phenomenon of some women losing ground appears to have begun in the late 1980s, though studies have begun to spotlight it only in the last few years.
Trying to figure out why is the hot topic right now, trying to understand what’s going on, said Jennifer Karas Montez, a Harvard School of Public Health sociologist who has been focused on the life expectancy decline.
Researchers also don’t know exactly how many women are affected. Montez says a good estimate is roughly 12 percent.
The study was released Monday by the journal Health Affairs.