We’re living longer — but just how long varies across Washington, study shows

If you live in King County, your life expectancy exceeds the national average — and it grew more than life expectancy in some Washington counties in recent decades.

The gap in life expectancy between Washington’s counties is growing, pointing to increasing inequality in the health of Americans.

If you lived in King County, your life expectancy increased by six years from 1980 to 2014, to 81.37 years, according to a new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

But Cowlitz County residents gained only three years of life expectancy in that span and died at the average age of 77.51.

The trend was reflected in another southwest Washington county — Grays Harbor — that had the state’s lowest life expectancy and among the smallest increases in life span over the years covered by the study.

(Courtesy of Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation)

Researchers examined factors behind the inequality in life expectancy. The leading ones were risks such as obesity, lack of exercise and smoking, said Ali Mokdad, an author of the study and professor of global health at IHME.

Socioeconomic factors including education, income and race were next in importance, Mokdad said. Better-educated people are more likely to seek medical care and adhere to medical messages, he said.

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Access to and quality of health care ranked third, the study reported.

“Health insurance is a very important and very strong determinant,” Mokdad said.

It’s unclear what the future of health care will look like for many Americans as the Senate is now reviewing a Republican health-care bill passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Although the Congressional Budget Office has not yet released its analysis of the bill, an analysis of a previous version of the bill projected that 24 million Americans would likely lose…

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