American women were living 1.7 years longer in 2009 than they were in 1999. But that increase was realized in only a handful of rural and exurban counties.
The life expectancy of the average U.S. female increased 1.7 years from 1999 to 2009. In 1999, the average age of death for an American female was 79.6 years; by 2009, it had risen to 81.3.
But that solid gain in longevity was matched in only 168 rural or exurban counties, or 6.5 percent of all the counties outside the cities.
While women in most of the nation were living longer lives, in 622 rural counties, longevity shortened between 1999 and 2009. In 24 percent of rural and exurban counties, women lived shorter lives in 2009 than in 1999.
The map above shows the change in female life expectancy in rural and exurban counties between 1999 and 2009. In the dark green counties, female longevity increased by 1.7 years or more. In other words, these rural or exurban counties at least matched the national average.
Click on the map to see a larger version.
In the light green counties, life expectancy for women increased, but at less than the national average.
And in the orangey-brown counties, female life expectancy decreased. These are the 622 rural and exurban counties where women are living shorter lives now than they were just a decade earlier.
(Exurban counties are counties in metropolitan areas, but where half the population lives in a rural setting. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington compiled this data.)
You can see a similar map and charts for rural men here.
The map shows that rural and exurban women are not keeping up with the health advances enjoyed in the rest of the country. In more than 95 percent of rural and exurban counties, changes in female longevity in the last ten years failed to match the gains experienced in the rest of the country.
To see a map of where rural women are living the longest and shortest, go here.
The chart below shows the 50 (and ties) rural or exurban counties where there were the largest decreases in female life expectancy between 1999 and 2009. You can see that most of these counties were clustered in particular states.
Oklahoma has 11 counties in the bottom 56 counties; Kentucky has nine (all from the eastern part of the state); five are in West Virginia (again in coal country); Alabama has 7 and Georgia has 5.
The chart below shows the rural and exurban counties with the greatest increase in female longevity.