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Texans' life expectancy varies greatly by postal code




Life expectancy ranges up to 30 years in some parts of the state and 20 years in some parts of Harris County, according to a new report that outlines the length of time that Texans will likely live by race and geography.

The report, released Tuesday by researchers at the University of Texas, revealed that life expectancy in some state postal codes was more than 10 years lower than the national average and at that of the state. These areas are strongly associated with poverty.


"A 10-year difference within a region is nonsense," said Sandi Pruitt, a professor of population and data science at the UT Southwest Medical Center, and lead investigator of the research. "We know that your place of residence predicts your health, but the degree of variation in this study was quite striking."






Dr. David Lakey, currently vice-chancellor of the UT system for health affairs and former health commissioner, said the numbers "should draw people's attention to work to determine why this is happening and how remedy".


RELATED: Life expectancy varies considerably in Harris County

The report found that Hispanics would probably live the longest and Blacks the shortest. In Harris County, life expectancy was 83.92 for Hispanics, 78.21 for whites and 75.25 for blacks.

Pruitt pointed out that the Hispanic life expectancy results are consistent with the so-called Hispanic paradox, namely that the death rates of Latin Americans are lower despite their many social and health disadvantages. The idea, popularized by a researcher from the medical branch of Galveston University, is not well understood.

LATINO LIFE EXPECTANCY: Government says Hispanics live longer

The lowest life expectancy in Harris County – 69.8 years – is in postal code 77026, which includes the Kashmere Gardens area northeast of downtown. The highest – 89.7 – is in postal code 77073, located between I-45 and Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Average life expectancy in Texas: 78.5 years. At the national level, this is 78.8.

The report is the latest in a UT system project to map health by postal code. This project was born from the idea that state and even county statistics mask pockets of populations where problems are more pronounced. Earlier reports provided ZIP code data on infant mortality, serious pregnancy-related illness, maternal risk factors, and risk of child maltreatment.


Everyone has found important problems. The report on child mortality has shown areas where rates are nearly five times higher than the national average.

The new report is based on an analysis of 1.6 million death certificates from the years 2005 to 2014. It calculates the average number of years that a newborn can hope to live by assuming that the patterns of mortality of the postal code at the time of birth remain constant over time.

The study found that the longest life expectancy – 97 – of Hutte Postcode 78634 near Austin. The shortest – 66.7 – is located in the postcode 76104 in Fort Worth.

She also found that women's life expectancy was 5.2 years longer than that of men. Compared to their male counterparts, an approximate figure is true if the women are Hispanic, black or white.

According to the report, living in very poor areas subtracts six years of life expectancy. Those living in postal codes with less than 5% of poverty will likely live on average 82.4 years; those living in postal codes with more than 20% of poverty will likely live on average 76.4 years.

According to the report, among counties in the Houston area, the average life expectancy was 78.7 years for Harris, 82.9 years for Fort Bend, 76.66 years for Galveston and 79, 71 years old for Montgomery. Among the other urban areas, he found averages of 79.1 for Bexar, 78.31 for Dallas, 78.73 for Tarrant and 81.97 for Travis.

"I hope the release of these data will inspire the state's representatives to address these inequities," Pruitt said. "It shows huge differences that could be solved by politics."

todd.ackerman@chron.com

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