Researchers at Harvard conclude that residents of the northern Plains — an area that includes Iowa — have a longer life span than people in other regions of the country. The “life expectancy” of Iowans is just about 78, which ranks Iowa seventh among the 50 states in terms of the life spans of its residents. Hawaii residents live longest. Mississippi residents have the shortest life spans, according to the Census Bureau.
Some Iowa counties rank among the highest in the country in terms of life expectancy rates. For example, residents in Lyon, Sioux and Story Counties residents have a life expectancy of about 81 years. The life expectancy is just under 81 for residents of Winneshiek County. But women living in Winneshiek County rank second in the nation in longevity.
Deb Vondersitt, administrator of the Oneota Riverview Care Facility in Decorah, says that’s a surprise to her. “I can’t pinpoint exactly why that would be,” she says. Vondersitt says the area has good health care available to its residents, with a local hospital as well as a satellite of the Mayo Clinic in Decorah.
Vondersitt hopes to live a long time herself. “This makes me feel good that Winneshiek County woman are surviving longer,” she says. One of the 77 residents in the facility Vondersitt runs is over 100 years old. The Harvard researchers compared county-by-county stats on life spans and found a wide variation in the life expectancy of Americans based on where they live.
They concluded the longest-living whites are more likely to live in rural areas of the Northern Plains. American Indians who live on reservations and blacks who live in both cities and rural areas have the lowest life expectancy rates, according to the Census Bureau figures reviewed by the Harvard researchers.