" The study also highlights that the complicated tapestry of local and cultural customs may be more important than income in driving health disparities, said Richard Suzman of the National Institute on Aging, which co-funded the research.
“It's not just low income,'' Suzman said. “It's what people eat, it's how they behave, or simply what's available in supermarkets.''
Murray analyzed mortality data between 1982 and 2001 by county, race, gender and income. He found some distinct groupings that he named the “eight Americas:''
—Asian-Americans, average per capita income of $21,566, have a life expectancy of 84.9 years.
—Northland low-income rural whites, $17,758, 79 years.
—Middle America (mostly white), $24,640, 77.9 years.
—Low income whites in Appalachia, Mississippi Valley, $16,390, 75 years.
—Western American Indians, $10,029, 72.7 years.
—Black Middle America, $15,412, 72.9 years.
—Southern low-income rural blacks, $10,463, 71.2 years.
—High-risk urban blacks, $14,800, 71.1 years.
Longevity disparities were most pronounced in young and middle-aged adults. A 15-year-old urban black man was 3.8 times as likely to die before the age of 60 as an Asian-American, for example.
That's key, Murray said, because this age group is left out of many government health programs that focus largely on children and the elderly."