Published in Health Affairs

Objective:Geographic disparities in life expectancy are substantial and not fully explained by differences in race and socioeconomic status. To develop policies that address these inequalities, it is essential to identify other factors that account for this variation.

Methods: Geographic disparities in life expectancy are substantial and not fully explained by differences in race and socioeconomic status. To develop policies that address these inequalities, it is essential to identify other factors that account for this variation.

Results: At the county level, we found that for every 1-standard-deviation (4.2-point) increase in the well-being score, life expectancy was 1.9 years higher for females and 2.6 years higher for males. Life expectancy and well-being remained positively associated, even after race, poverty, and education were controlled for. In addition, well-being partially mediated the established associations of race, poverty, and education with life expectancy.

Conclusions: These findings highlight well-being as an important metric of a population’s health and longevity and as a promising focus for intervention.

Key Takeaways:

  • This study investigated whether population well-being—a comprehensive measure of physical, mental, and social health—helps explain geographic variation in life expectancy.
  • The results found that, at the county level, for every 1-standard-deviation (4.2-point) increase in the well-being score, life expectancy was 1.9 years higher for females and 2.6 years higher for males.
  • Life expectancy and well-being remained positively associated, even after race, poverty, and education were controlled for.