Blog Post

Insight: The Rise and Stall of Utah Life Expectancy

By: Mike Hollingshaus, Charley Hart

Life expectancy is a key indicator of health and equality. It rose considerably over the last century but faces new challenges. While the Covid-19 pandemic clearly influenced it, U.S. life expectancy had already stalled over the previous decade. Additionally, even though Utah has historically had a higher life expectancy than the nation, that advantage is disappearing. Female life expectancy is nearly identical for Utah and the U.S.

Life expectancy is the average number of years a person would live if the population death rates remained unchanged throughout their life. Life expectancy in the developed world rose quickly during the 20th century but has recently decelerated for both Utah and the nation. The following charts visualize patterns for the U.S. and Utah during 1959-2019. The data come from the United States Mortality DataBase, a fairly new and very reliable data source.

Source: United States Mortality DataBase (data), Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute (figure)

Source: United States Mortality DataBase (data), Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute (figure)

A few things jump out in these figures:

  • Life expectancy is higher for females compared to males. With few exceptions, this is true throughout the world and likely has biological roots.
  • Life expectancy has risen considerably for all groups since 1970.
  • Recently, life expectancy has stalled. The pattern is visually noticeable in the past decade and also during the 1990s for Utah women.
  • For women, the gap between Utah and the U.S. is clearly shrinking.

For comparison, <