If you’re thinking of leaving Minnesota when you retire, then you may want to browse through a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before you sell your house and hire the moving van.
The report takes a state-by-state look not only at life expectancy for people at age 65, but also at healthy life expectancy for people at that age — in other words, at how many more years they can expect to live in good health.
And, overall, Minnesota fared well. We scored fifth out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia on life expectancy and third on healthy life expectancy.
Minnesotans can expect to live an average of 20.1 years after age 65, of which 15.6 can be expected to be healthy, according to the report. That compares to 20.4/15.4 years in Florida and 20.2/15.0 years in Arizona, two popular retirement destinations.
It also compares with 19.5/14.9 years in our neighbor to the east, Wisconsin.
Actually, if it’s warm weather and a long and healthy life you’re looking for, then the best state for growing old in would be Hawaii, where people aged 65 live an average of 21.3 more years, of which 16.2 can be expected to be healthy.
The only other state that beat out Minnesota on both measurements — life expectancy and healthy life expectancy — was Connecticut (20.2/15.7).
But growing old in Minnesota is not so great for blacks. In 15 other states, including Wisconsin, blacks can expect to live longer in good health than here in the North Star State.
A serious purpose
Of course, the report isn’t meant to be a retirement guide. It was designed to set up a baseline of data that individual states could use to monitor the health status of their older populations. Although national healthy life expectancy estimates — ones that consider quality as well as quantity of life — have been configured before, this is the first time that such estimates have been made at the state level.
For the study, which uses 2007-2009 data from three government sources, the CDC researchers specifically looked at disparities in health status by sex, race and state. The race category included only whites and blacks because there wasn’t enough reliable data available at the state level for Hispanics, Asians or American Indians/Alaska Natives.
The numbers revealed the following key findings:
- Nationally, Americans at 65 can expect to live an average of 19.1 more years, including 13.9 in good health.
- Women have a greater healthy life expectancy then men in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This gender gap ranges from 0.7 years for Louisiana residents to 3.1 years in the Dakotas. In Minnesota, the difference is 2.4 years. In other words, Minnesota’s women tend to have almost two-and-a-half more years of healthy living than Minnesota’s men.
- Healthy life expectancy is lower for blacks than whites in all states for which there was sufficient data, with the exceptions of Nevada and New Mexico. The largest disparity between whites and blacks is 7.8 years in Iowa. In Minnesota, the difference is 4.1 years.
- Healthy life expectancies are lowest for whites in the South. At age 65, whites can expect only 11.7 more healthy years in Alabama, 11.8 years in Mississippi and 12.0 years in Tennessee. By comparison, white Minnesotans aged 65 can expect to live 15.6 more healthy years.
As the report points out, many factors contribute to healthy aging, including a safe and healthy living environment, healthy behaviors (like exercising and not smoking), getting recommended preventive health services (such as vaccines and cancer screenings) and access to good quality health care when needed.
“Where you live in the United States shouldn’t determine how long and how healthy you live — but it does, far more than it should,” noted CDC Director Tom Frieden in a statement released with the report. “Not only do people in certain states and African-Americans live shorter lives, they also live a greater proportion of their last years in poor health.
“It will be important moving forward to support prevention programs that make it easier for people to be healthy no matter where they live,” he added.