While no one is guaranteed a long and healthy life, where a person resides in Ohio could be one determining factor. According to a new report from The Center for Community Solutions, as poverty rates increase by census tract in the state, life expectancy decreases.
Kate Warren, research associate at the center, noted there are major differences in life expectancy across Ohio — ranging from 60 years old in Columbus to 89.2 years old in parts of Stow.
"It's really shocking to think about how wide those disparities are," Warren said. "Health has a lot more to do with our community than we often think about, and there are so many social and environmental factors that impact our health a lot more than how often we're seeing a doctor."
The research also found life expectancy tends to be lower in areas with a higher percentage of black residents than in neighborhoods with majority white populations. Warren was careful to note that while statistically significant, the correlations do not prove causation.
The average life expectancy in the U.S. is about 78.6 years.
Warren explained neighborhoods with a lower life expectancy often share common characteristics that create barriers to good health.
"We often see things like lower-quality schools in those neighborhoods. People have trouble accessing safe, affordable housing. They may not have access to high-quality jobs that pay a living wage," she said. "There may be safety issues. There may be issues with air quality or walkability."
Warren said a holistic approach is needed to address these disparities, one that focuses on all areas of community health. She noted there is an interactive map online where Ohioans can find the life expectancy in their area.
According to the map, in parts of the West End, life expectancy is as low as 67.5 years. Just a few miles away in Hyde Park, however, life expectancy is listed as high as 81.4 years.
"I think this is really helpful to help put things in perspective for folks to think about what the conditions are in the place where they live and how is that different from other places around them and start to think about this in a different way," she said.
More information, including the map and report, are available at communitysolutions.com.
A version of this article was first published by Cleveland Scene.