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UNITED STATES - The poor die young


Life expectancy may have reached an all-time high for the USA, but it is declining in many of its poor counties, especially among women, a team from the Harvard School of Public Health has reported.

By the 1980s, death rates started to head back up in Appalachia, Mississippi River states and parts of Texas. "Female mortality increased in a large number of counties, primarily because of chronic diseases related to smoking, overweight and obesity, and high blood pressure."

"There has been increasing disparity in health in the US population for two decades," said Majid Ezzati of the school's department of population and international health, who led the study. "The people who are worst off are either not getting better or are worse off" than they had been, Ezzati added.

While many of the worst-affected counties had a high black population, Ezzati found that white populations in poorer counties fared worse than whites elsewhere. "It exists above and beyond race," he said.

"One of the questions we are asking is whether our ranking in the world is getting increasingly worse because we are not doing a good job of taking care of the worst-off," Ezzati said. "To have 20 years of decline for about one out of five American women, it is something that is rather unprecedented," he added.