Study finds surprising gap in life expectancy in central Indiana communities

This map shows hold long people are expected to live, on average, in central Indiana. (Submitted map)

This map shows hold long people are expected to live, on average, in central Indiana. (Submitted map)

By Navar Watson

A graph that shows how other countries, the USA and Indiana rank when it comes to living long lives. (Submitted graph)

A baby born in Carmel today is estimated to live 14 years longer than a baby born in south central Indianapolis, a new study finds.

The average life expectancy of residents in the Hamilton County city is about 83.7 years, whereas southern Indianapolis residents average out at 69.4 years. This “disturbing difference” surfaced in a study by the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI July 15.

“A gap of this size should not exist in the heartland of America,” head researcher Tess Weathers said.

This gap – the largest in a study of 104 Indiana ZIP codes – came between 46033 in Carmel and 46225 in Indianapolis, which are only 28 miles apart.

Carmel’s average rivals top-ranking countries in life expectancy, Weathers said. The life expectancy in southern Indianapolis, however, compares to that of Iraq.

“A great deal of this really has to do with those conditions that you’re living in day in and day out,” Weathers said. “It isn’t just one thing. It’s things that stack up on top of one another.”

Weathers cited social determinants like education, housing and work environment.

Education in Indianapolis looks different than education in Hamilton County, she said. Furthermore, the quality of one’s education can influence the level of controllability in his or her job. Jobs with low controllability lead to chronic stress, aging the body prematurely.

Weathers also believes inner-city violence impacts the results, along with the stress of living in a high-crime area.

In order to start shrinking the gap, everyone needs to get involved, Weathers said—even Hamilton County residents.

“The corrective responsibility we have as a society [is]to try to be sure that people get a fair opportunity and [get]away from this mindset of it really all being about ‘individual choice,’” Weathers said. “That’s certainly a part of it, but it’s not the biggest piece.”

Weathers said the next step is for individual communities to “facilitate a deeper dive” into the data tables and pinpoint where (in age) people are dying the most.

“Whether you’re at the top of the spectrum or at the bottom of the spectrum, we’re all linked in this,” Weathers said.


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