How long are you going to live? It depends on where and when you were born, how old you are now, and what choices you make in the future. People called actuaries look at data and make accurate predictions about life expectancies. They've created a detailed picture of life expectancy in America.
Means, Medians, and Middle Age
Many of the life expectancy statistics for the United States give the average, or mean, life expectancy. This number isn't always a great predictor of how long you'll live. That's because very high or very low numbers can shift the average. In the U.S., many premature babies die while receiving hospital treatment. These very early deaths bring down the population average. The U.S. also loses many young men to violence and automobile accidents, and these deaths also bring down the average. That is why many researchers prefer to use the median for life expectancies.
The median life expectancy is the age that half of Americans can expect to reach. Once Americans hit middle age, their median life expectancy rises. That's because if a person survives his early 20s without an accidental or violent death, he's very likely to live to become an old man.
Median life expectancies also vary by state. In the most recent government study, a person in Kentucky who reached age 65 had a median life expectancy of 81.6 years, the worst in the country. Meanwhile, a person who reached age 65 in Hawaii had a median life expectancy of 85.4 years, the highest in the country. That means that 50% of 65-year-olds living in Hawaii will live past age 85. Other factors also influence life expectancy, including how you exercise, how much education you complete, and whether you get married.
Check out the links below to learn about more factors that affect life expectancy.