Data Dive

You Can Expect to Live Longer in Washington

New CDC figures show that life expectancy dipped across the U.S. as Covid began to spread. But our longevity number remains resiliently high.

By Benjamin Cassidy September 23, 2022

Person with raised arms in foreground, with Mount Rainier in the background.

It’s a fair assumption that many of this state’s wealthy elite are investing in life extension. At least we know Jeff Bezos is.

But those born in Washington can expect to live, by this country’s not-so-great standards, a little bit longer already.

At 79.2 years, our state ranked second for life expectancy at birth in 2020, per the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While numbers fell across the board as Covid began to take its toll, Washington’s pandemic response helped limit that dip to less than one year. Only Hawaii, at 80.7 years, can currently claim more longevity.

The CDC uses census and Medicare data to measure how long the average person born in a particular part of the U.S. might expect to live. Washington has fared well in the past, ranking in the top 10 for 2018 and 2019.

But 2020 saw some other states fall back. New York’s life expectancy dropped three years. Twelve others states saw a decline of at least two years. 

Those numbers will likely take another hit in 2021. A CDC estimate says U.S. life expectancy declined to its lowest level since 1996, at 76.1 years. Covid-19 was the leading cause of the downward trend, the health authority reports.

The U.S. already lags behind many, many countries in this department. Disparities in life expectancy along racial and ethnic lines persist throughout the U.S., according to a separate study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. An interactive map from 2019 lays out how, even county-by-county, life expectancy can differ greatly.

The CDC data doesn’t quite break it down at that level. It does note that female life expectancy was about 82 years in Washington during 2020, compared to 77 for males. And its “Key Health Indicators” offer some glimpses at how life changed during the first year of the pandemic in Washington:

  • Birth and marriage rates dropped.
  • The divorce rate stayed the same.
  • Drug overdose and homicide deaths went up.
  • Covid-19 became the fifth leading cause of death statewide. Cancer, heart disease, accidents, and Alzheimer’s disease ranked higher.

If you want to dive deeper, here’s the full list of health indicators.

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