Life expectancy among people who live in states that are predominantly controlled by Democratic lawmakers is higher than in states where Republicans are typically in the majority, according to a new study, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The study, which focused on how state policy changes since the 1970s have affected Americans’ life expectancy, was published on Tuesday in the peer-reviewed health policy journal the Milbank Quarterly by researchers from Syracuse University, Harvard University, the University of Washington and others.
“When we look at what is happening with life expectancy, the tendency is to focus on individual explanations about what Americans are doing,” said Jennifer Karas Montez, a sociologist at Syracuse University and the lead author of the study, pointing to drug use, smoking and obesity as examples. “But state policies are so important.”
The study’s “results show that changes in life expectancy during 1970‐2014 were associated with changes in state policies on a conservative‐liberal continuum, where more liberal policies expand economic regulations and protect marginalized groups,” the authors wrote.
“States that implemented more conservative policies were more likely to experience a reduction in life expectancy. We estimated that the shallow upward trend in US life expectancy from 2010 to 2014 would have been 25% steeper for women and 13% steeper for men had state policies not changed as they did. We also estimated that US life expectancy would be 2.8 years longer among women and 2.1 years longer among men if all states enjoyed the health advantages of states with more liberal policies.”
The authors state: “The overarching conclusion is clear: States that have invested in their populations’ social and economic well-being by enacting more liberal policies over time tend to be the same states that have made considerable gains in life expectancy.”
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