Tampa has largest decrease in longevity in U.S.

Posted at 7:34 PM, Apr 11, 2016

A new study shows how much money you earn will likely determine how long you will live.

The report shows a troubling trend here in the Tampa Bay area.

The study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 15 years of data, consisting of more than 1.4 billion documents, including tax records and Social Security death records.

While life expectancies are generally increasing in the U.S., the average age of death for lower income residents in Tampa decreased by more than two years between 2001 and 2014. That’s a rate worse than in any other metropolitan region in the country.

But people who earn big incomes are living longer and longer.

People who earn more than $350,000 a year live nearly 15 years longer than the people who earn less than $10,000 per year.

Poor men in Tampa live about 75 years on average, while those in the top 25 percent of income earners live seven years longer.

Among people in the bottom quarter of incomes, their life expectancies varied by where they live.

Factors including smoking rates, pollution, exercise rates and access to nutritious food and health care appear to explain some of the regional differences.

James Long of Tampa, who is unemployed, smokes and has diabetes, says he is not surprised by the findings.

He depends on the Judea Christian Health Clinic for medical care.

“If I didn't have Judeo, I'd probably be dead today, because Hillsborough County health insurance won't help me,” said Long, who is 47.

Judeo Christian Health Center Executive Director Kelly Bell says she’s seen an increase in need in the community in recent years as more people are falling between the cracks.

“Finding jobs and supporting their families and all of those things add to the stress level in their lives, which affects your longevity and your life span,” she said.

Bell said the center is supported entirely with private donations.

Her organization is holding its biggest annual fundraiser later this week.

Later, the center had 36,000 patient visits.

The longevity study did show some positive trends overall.

During the 15 years of data tracked in the study, the average life span of men in the U.S. increased by two years, four months.

The average life span for women increased by nearly three years, according to the study.

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