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How Long Can You Expect to Live in America's Biggest Cities?

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senior woman on smartphone in city
Allison Michael Orenstein / Stone / Getty Images CC

The Urban Advantage

Settling down away from the hubbub of a big city may seem like a slower, less taxing way of life. But in reality, Americans in urban areas tend to live longer than those in rural places. Better access to healthcare and higher paying jobs help explain it. Of course, COVID-19 affected mortality rates and life expectancy for the country at large. Recent estimates found a dramatic drop of a full year to 77.8 years during the first half of 2020. Experts are optimistic life expectancy will bounce back to a pre-pandemic 78.8 years. But where you live can seriously affect how many orbits around the sun you get. Here's how long you can expect to live in America's 25 most populous cities.

 

Related: 40 Secrets of People Who Lived Past 100

New York City
Ingus Kruklitis/istockphoto
Los Angeles
benedek/istockphoto

Los Angeles

No. 2 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 80.4 years

You can expect to live only a couple of months less in L.A. than you would in New York. But terrible air pollution is holding the City of Angels back when it comes to the longevity of its citizens.


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Chicago
lhongfoto / istockphoto

Chicago

No. 3 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 77.3 years

Below average life expectancy in the Windy City doesn't tell the whole story. There's a 30-year difference in probable lifespans between the city's most fortunate and least fortunate citizens. It's the largest gap in the country, with some groups living to be 90 and others just 60.


Related: The Dirtiest (and Cleanest) Big Cities in America 

Houston
Art Wager/istockphoto

Houston

No. 4 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 78.4 years

The country's fourth-largest city has a 37.4% adult obesity rate. This certainly contributes to how long Houstonians can expect to live compared to people in other big metro areas. Having quality hospitals, including the top cancer hospital in the nation, helps tilt the scales a bit the other direction.

 

Related: 2020's Most Overweight & Obese States in America

Phoenix
Davel5957/istockphoto

Phoenix

No. 5 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 77.9 years

Compared to people in other cities, Phoenicians are more likely to be uninsured and are less likely to be getting proper dental care or prenatal care. And the childhood poverty rate is relatively high.

Philadelphia
vichie81/istockphoto

Philadelphia

No. 6 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 75.4 years

Above average rates of binge drinking and physical inactivity in Philadelphia could help explain why its citizens can expect to live more than 3 years less than the typical American. 


Related:Don't Believe These 19 Myths About Alcohol

San Antonio, TX
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

San Antonio

No. 7 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 78 years

The you-are-what-you-eat effect could be causing San Antonians to live slightly shorter lives than other Americans. Three out of four residents of the city don't have easy access to healthy food. So-called "food deserts'' can have devastating health consequences.

San Diego, California
f11photo/istockphoto

San Diego

No. 8 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 81.2 years

You can expect to live about two extra years in San Diego. It follows the trend of California as a whole, which has the second-highest life expectancy of any state except Hawaii.

Dallas
f11photo/istockphoto

Dallas

No. 9 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 77.8 years

With diabetes and high blood pressure rates somewhat higher than most cities, it's no wonder that Dallas has a slightly subpar life expectancy.

San Jose, California
SpVVK/istockphoto

San Jose, California

No. 10 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 82.4 years

San Jose is the big winner in the longevity game, with the best life expectancy of America's 25 biggest cities. Active lifestyles and good healthcare add up to a life expectancy that is more than three years higher than the national average.

Austin, Texas
RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/istockphoto

Austin

No. 11 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 79.9 years

The flood of newcomers moving to Austin might be rewarded with a little longer life, almost a year more than the country's normal average. The city has relatively low levels of obesity. Holding Austin back from even better longevity is that 15% of people don't have health insurance.

Jacksonville, Florida
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Jacksonville, Florida

No. 12 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 76.2 years

Jacksonville lags behind other cities when it comes to certain health care metrics, like preventive care for seniors. And the opioid crisis has taken a huge toll on the city.


Related: America's Healthiest States for Seniors

Fort Worth, Texas
Arpad Benedek/istockphoto

Fort Worth

No. 13 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 77.5 years

Life expectancy for Fort Worth is barely below that of its neighbor to the west, Dallas. But residents in Fort Worth's 76104 ZIP code have the dubious distinction of having the lowest life expectancy in all of Texas, at just 66.7 years.

Columbus, Ohio
Davel5957/istockphoto

Columbus, Ohio

No. 14 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 77 years

More so than in other cities, life expectancy in Columbus is very much dependent on whether you are rich or poor.  Ohio ranks 47th in the country in terms of its disparity index, a measure of how health is affected by wealth.

Charlotte, North Carolina
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Charlotte, North Carolina

No. 15 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 78.5 years

The people of Charlotte can expect to live about as long as anyone else in the country. And while the city tends to have more than its share of high ozone days, the air quality has improved dramatically over the last couple of decades.

San Francisco
EarthScapeImageGraphy/istockphoto

San Francisco

No. 16 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 82.1 years

San Francisco has a life expectancy to brag about. California's fourth-largest city has below average rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, perhaps because there are plenty of places to stay active, namely the city's 220 parks. Everybody in the city lives within a half a mile of a park.


Related: 33 Idyllic Parks That Bring Nature to the City

Indianapolis, IN
f11photo/shutterstock

Indianapolis

No. 17 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 75.7 years

High crime and unhealthy behavior, like exercising too little, take a toll on Indianapolis's life expectancy.

Seattle
aiisha5/istockphoto

Seattle

No.18 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 81.2 years

What Seattle lacks in sunshine, it makes up for in a bright forecast for longer living. Residents can expect to live more than two extra years in the Emerald City. It's one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, in part because of its plentiful green spaces and an emphasis on healthy eating and exercise.

 

Related: 20 Essential Exercises for Older Adults

Denver
AlbertPego/istockphoto

Denver

No. 19 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 78.6 years

You can expect a pretty middle-of-the-road lifespan in Denver, although residents in its most socioeconomically advantaged neighborhoods tend to live a lot longer, an average of nearly 86 years in the 80220 ZIP code, for instance.

Washington, D.C.
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Washington, D.C.

No. 20 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 77 years

Living in the nation's capital decreases your life expectancy by about two years. And you are statistically likely to live a briefer life if you're black — as about 47% of D.C. residents are — than if you're white. Even as racial disparities for longevity have shrunk elsewhere, “the black-white life expectancy gap in Washington, D.C., has unfortunately continued to grow in recent years, warranting further investigation,” says a recent report that notes the gap exceeds 10 years.

Boston Common, Boston
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Boston

No. 21 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 79.9 years

Life expectancy in Boston is about a year above the normal national average. Massachusetts' being a fairly educated and wealthy state likely plays a role in this advantage.

El Paso, Texas
DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

El Paso, Texas

No. 22 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 79 years

Texas's sixth-largest city is perfectly average when it comes to life expectancy, though it does have relatively high obesity rates.

Nashville
ANPerryman/istockphoto

Nashville

No. 23 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 76.9 years

Music City is not singing the happiest of tunes when it comes to longevity. The city's life expectancy is a bit below the normal national average. And the rates of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer reflect this fact.

 

Related: Most Common Health Issues for People Over 60

Detroit
pawel.gaul/istockphoto

Detroit

No. 24 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 72.4 years

Detroit has the lowest life expectancy of America's 25 biggest cities. Very high levels of unemployment and a  staggering violent crime rate stand out as contributing factors.

Oklahoma City
Majestic_Aerials/istockphoto

Oklahoma City

No. 25 Most Populous City

Life Expectancy: 76 years

Living in Oklahoma City could lower your life expectancy by about three years. This is not very surprising when faced with the fact that the state's health system comes in second-to-last in a national ranking.