The Healthiest Place To Live Is, New York City?

Sarah Kliff passes along a chart showing that the residents of New York County, the island of Manhattan, have the highest life expectancy in the country:

A study in the British medical journal The Lancet, from which the chart is taken, gives some credit for this development to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s various public health initiatives, but it strikes me that the explanation is far broader than that:

Nor are all the gains New York City made in the 1990s replicable elsewhere. At the beginning of that decade, the population’s life expectancy was sinking under a heavy burden of HIV/AIDS-related mortality and a wave of homicides. But over the next 10 years, as murders plummeted 75% and new antiretroviral therapies radically improved outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS, the population’s life expectancy rebounded. The city can be credited with reducing crime and making HIV treatment accessible, but those changes can’t drive further increases in life expectancy once homicide and AIDS mortality are low.

One has to also think that the influx over the past decade of young, well-off, high-earning people, especially in Manhattan proper has some impact on all of this. All in all, though, it’s somewhat of a surprise. After all, wouldn’t one expect life expectancy to be higher someplace out West?

FILED UNDER: Health, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. “City” is a catchall. There is a lot of data that life expectancy clusters down to zip-code.

    If we could find an open zip-code to life expectancy table I’d put my zip up against NY …

    (not publicly naming my zip, of course)

  2. Hey wait, don’t NYers move to Florida and die there? Is that moving them off the books?

    😉

  3. superdestroyer says:

    Manhattan has gotten much whiter, much younger, and much richer. Maybe the real take away is that if you want to make people healty, make them wealthier.

    However, every few politicians seem interested in making people wealthier but instead want to make the average person in the U.S. poorer, more taxed, and more under the control of the government.

  4. @superdestroyer:

    However, every few politicians seem interested in making people wealthier but instead want to make the average person in the U.S. poorer, more taxed, and more under the control of the government.

    I had no idea you’d gone over to the Occupy movement …

  5. JKB says:

    @john personna:

    That’s true, once they’ve got their fat pension, they bail on NYC for sunnier climes. And while you meet plenty of people who talk of loving that they grew up in New York, you meet very few who ever want to move back.

    New York City, the nicest place to be from as long as you don’t have to go back.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    P.J. O.Rourke uses the line that NYC is a great place if you are rich or a child. However, for the rest of us, NYC is just too expensive compared to the rest of the U.S. and for many people the wages do not make up the difference.

    A city that has a public school system that is 15% white or less will have very healthy whites. The thing about NYC is that Manhattan has reduced the number of blacks and thus, become healthier in a statistical sense.

  7. @superdestroyer:

    Dude, you are trapped in the 50’s … in so many ways.

  8. DC Loser says:

    Growing up in NYC, I never recalled seeing many obese people. People in NYC walk everywhere and have access to cheap and nutritious food in the markets, especially the ethnic markets all over the city.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @DC Loser:

    Growing up in NYC, I never recalled seeing many obese people. People in NYC walk everywhere and have access to cheap and nutritious food in the markets, especially the ethnic markets all over the city.

    So true. I’ve visited NYC many times and, say what they will about New York City (and the stereotypes are rife) but generally you do not see the general obesity that seems to be prevalent in the cities of the South and Midwest.

  10. JKB says:

    I’d missed the important part, we aren’t talking about New York City but rather, Manhattan.

    The poor in Manhattan are different.

  11. JKB says:

    Though the poverty rate in the city rose faster than it did nationwide and the Bronx remained the poorest urban county in the country, New York still had a smaller proportion of poor people than many other major cities, including Miami, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Boston.

    An influx of immigrants pushed the city’s foreign-born population to near-record highs (more than three million, and 37.2 percent). Their ranks swelled by about 50,000. Half of New Yorkers 5 and older now do not speak English at home. Source

  12. Peter says:

    A couple other things:

    Deaths in car crashes have an outsized impact on life expectancy because they mostly involve younger people. They’re less of a factor in Manhattan because people don’t drive as much, and also because heavy urban traffic reduces speeds and hence the severity of crashes.

    Manhattan also has an increasing proportion of Asians, who generally are a long-lived bunch.* There also are many Hispanics, though the surprisingly long lifespan of Hispanics (called the Hispanic Paradox) may not be as significant as elsewhere because it mainly applies to mestizo Hispanics and Manhattan has mostly mulatto Hispanics.

    * = fun trivia: Asian women in nearby Bergen County, New Jersey have a life expectancy of 91 or 92, which is the longest life expectancy of any definable population group in the world.

  13. Gustopher says:

    It’s the walking. You get a lot of exercise just getting around in NYC, and it’s delightful on a nice day.

  14. jpmeyer says:

    TIE did a few posts about this a couple weeks ago:

    http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/life-expectancy-is-a-population-metric/

    In short, if you do the math, life expectancy gains that are this large (which are high even in The Bronx!) mean that NYC has to be doing a huge number of beneficial things because the population of NYC is so large that any individual change can only provide a small increase on its own.

  15. Doug Deal says:

    Life expectancy is more or less just numerical voodoo, since it is a prediction of the median span of life of a person born on the date in question. Thus it is not a fact or a piece of data but merely a hypothesis based on statistics.