top of page
  • Writer's pictureNancy Griffin

Where We Live Contributes to How Long We Live

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

The Neighborhood You Live in Can Affect Life Expectancy by 30 Years

A new study on life expectancy across the U.S. by The United States Small-Area Life Expectancy Project (USALEEP) show where we live contributes to how long we live. The study is the first public health outcome measuring life expectancy at birth for nearly every neighborhood in the country. A joint effort of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USALEEP data provide unparalleled insights into community health and demonstrate that not everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy where they live.' A person in the U.S. can expect to live an average of 78.8 years, according to the CDC. However, life expectancy varies widely across geography. At the neighborhood level, differences appearing even when communities are only a few miles apart. In Washington, D.C., for example, people living in the Barry Farms neighborhood face a life expectancy of 63.2 years. Yet, less than 10 miles away, a baby born in Friendship Heights and Friendship Village can expect to live 96.1 years, according to CDC data. Just 10 miles represent a life expectancy difference of almost 33 years. According to the study Neighborhood Environments - American Journal of Preventive Medicine (, Neighborhoods with large population of blacks tend to have lower life expectancies than communities that are majority white, Hispanic, or Asian. Research shows that black communities are less likely to have access to resources that promote health, like grocery stores with fresh foods, places to exercise and quality health care facilities. This is true even in middle-class neighborhoods. These communities also have fewer opportunities for economic prosperity, with higher unemployment rates and fewer opportunities to work and quality education, all of which shape health outcomes across a lifespan.

Recent reviews have drawn attention to relationships among neighborhood food availability, dietary intake, and obesity, but to our knowledge, a detailed review of disparities in food access has not been completed. Neighborhood is broadly defined to be “the area around one's place of residence,” and research relating to both micro- (e.g., stores within walking distance from home) and macro-level characteristics (e.g., restaurants within county boundaries) of the physical food environment are considered.


bottom of page