County lines can mean more than just a name, apparently, as for some parts of the state, it could lead to a longer or shorter life.

A recent study by the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society Health found that where a person lives in Kentucky might cut as much as eight years off a life. The results of the study were recently published in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The southern Pennyrile tends to fall toward the middle of the pack for Kentucky. The scale ranges from 70 to 79, and Christian and Todd counties both landed at 75. Trigg County had a slightly better outcome with a life expectancy of 76.

When it comes to how long residents might live, socioeconomic factors play a substantial role. Those factors include education, health and poverty levels.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics, more than 21 percent of citizens in Christian County are living in poverty. In terms of residents below 65 years old who don’t have health insurance, 10.5 percent of population is reportedly going without it.  

In regards to education, for the population over the age of 25, almost 86 percent have a high school diploma and nearly 16 percent have a bachelor’s degree.

Figures differ in Todd County, although it has the same estimated life expectancy as its western neighbor.

The poverty level in Todd is a little more than 19 percent, according to census figures. Education levels were slightly less, with a reported 78 percent of residents having a high school diploma and a little more than 10 percent with a bachelor’s degree.

In terms of the population that’s without health insurance, the county sits at nearly 14 percent, according to the most recent census estimates.

“So many of our health issues are tied to socioeconomic status,” Jared Arnett, executive director of the Shaping our Appalachian Region program, told the Herald-Leader.

In Trigg County, the poverty level is almost 16 percent. For education, about 83 percent of people living in Trigg have a high school diploma, and nearly 18 percent have a bachelor’s. Meanwhile, nearly 12 percent of the population is going without insurance.

The Center on Society and Health also examined population and death-count data from the Centers for Disease Control when coming up with the life expectancy numbers.

The counties with the lowest life expectancy tended to be in the eastern portion of the state, but the study found that counties a mere hour’s drive from each other had drastically different expectations for how long their residents might live.

“Babies born just a few counties apart can face vastly different chances of living a long and healthy life,” the center stated in a news release. “For example, the average life expectancy in Wolfe County is 70 years, eight years shorter than for babies born less than an hour’s drive away in Fayette County.

“This isn’t a problem unique to rural America or small towns. It’s also true in big cities, where even larger gapes in health are seen across neighborhoods,” according to the center.

Factors also in the mix include unsafe or unhealthy housing, the availability of exercise opportunities and access to health professionals.

For the state as a whole, the lowest expectancy was in Breathitt, Perry and Wolfe counties, with each coming in at 70 years.

Several counties, including Calloway in Western Kentucky, had significantly longer life expectancies at 78 years, according to the study. The highest was in Oldham County at 79.

Reach Rebecca Walter at 270-887-3241 or rwalter@kentuckynewera.com.

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