Kevin Drum draws our attention to the map above, which shows counties in which women's life expectancies actually fell between 1997 and 2007 (this is not supposed to happen in developing countries). The map comes from this LA Times story, which quote researchers as follows:
"There are just lots of places where things are getting worse," said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which conducted the research. "We're not keeping up."However, I was immediately reminded of this "peak oil stress map" that I made a year ago. It was based on looking at the ratio of median income to average commute time, on the theory that places were people had to drive a lot but had little income would be worst placed to deal with expensive gasoline. The red areas are where you expect the worst problems, and the blue areas are where you'd expect people to be more resilient:
The backsliding for women began before 1997, but researchers found it had accelerated in the last decade. Only 227 counties saw women's life expectancy decline between 1987 and 1997, according to the study.
The grim trend is fueled largely by smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, according to Murray and other population health experts.
Stare at the two maps together for a while. The agreement is really quite good:
Of course, this is one of those complex multifactorial situations that really call for a heavy duty statistical analysis. I'm not about to attempt that in a quick blog post. So let me just say this is an intriguing hypothesis. The idea that financial stress due to high gas prices and loss of income is causing actual declines in health status seems at least plausible, since it's well established that chronic emotional stress contributes to obesity and cardiovascular disease.