People across the U.S. are living longer, but life expectancy for residents along the East and West Coasts and in central Colorado and Alaska has risen more than it has in the Southeast and other disparate locations. Although the national average increased from 73.8 to 79.1 years from 1980 to 2014, the gap between counties with the highest and lowest rates grew to a startling 20 years (large graph). Equally surprising is that the disparity is driven not so much by income or race—long thought to be the greatest factors—but by behaviors such as inactivity and metabolic conditions such as diabetes (set of three graphs). “Now that we've been able to pull out which risk factors are really important,” says Laura Dwyer-Lindgren of the University of Washington, “we can figure out how to address them.”

Credit: Nadieh Bremer; Source: “Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014: Temporal Trends and Key Drivers,” by Laura Dwyer-Lindgren et al., in JAMA Internal Medicine, Vol. 177, No. 7; July 2017