Study: Life expectancy for poor Indianapolis men second-worst in the nation

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 13, 2016)-- A new study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association paints a bleak picture for the poor in America. It looks especially bad for low-income people in central Indiana.

Those who make $28,000 or less a year living in Indianapolis have one of the shortest life spans out of the 100 largest cities.

The study shows Indianapolis has the second-lowest life expectancy in the nation for low-income men. Gary, Indiana was the only city where life expectancy was lower.

IUPUI professor Lisa Staten and a team published research on the gap in life spans in the Indianapolis area last year.

Staten says life expectancy is already lower than average in Indiana, so you would expect the trend to follow among most demographic groups.

“A child born in the United States, we would predict that they have a chance to live to about 79 years,” said Staten. “Indiana, our life expectancy is about 77.5. So even right there, there’s a difference between us and the rest of the nation.”

The Indianapolis-area life expectancy takes a nose dive once you look only at poor men. A male baby born to a low-income family in Indianapolis is expected to live just 74.6 years. That’s the same as the overall life expectancy in Saudi Arabia and Syria.

“We already know that income matters a lot in life expectancies, so knowing that we have these clusters of lower-income areas, it’s not really that surprising that these folks are struggling and have a lot more challenges,” said Staten.

What is surprising, Staten says, is how much worse it is to be poor in Indianapolis than almost anywhere else in the country. The poor in some west and east coast cities actually live longer than the national average.

Staten believes the study shows Indianapolis has some fundamental problems, including lack of access to healthy food options, that it must fix to help the poor live longer.

“One of our mantras is ‘how to we make the healthy choice, the easier or easy choice?’” said Staten. “For a lot of folks who live in our low-income areas, it is really a hard choice to make the healthy choice.”

Staten believes that if government officials here don’t work to improve local public transportation and social services, the health gap between the rich and poor in Indianapolis will only continue to grow, as it shrinks in other places.