Health

Low-income men in Louisville have the fourth-shortest life expectancy in the country, according to a recent study.

The findings were published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers from Stanford University found the life expectancy for low-income men in Louisville is 74.9 years. Low-income men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Toledo, Ohio, have the same life expectancy, according to the study.

Low-income men in Gary, Indiana, had the shortest life expectancy in the country at 74.2 years. Poor men in New York City live the longest on average, at nearly 80 years.

Anna Faul, executive director for the Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging at the University of Louisville, said only about 20 percent of an individual’s health is determined by the kind of health care he or she receives. She said the rest depends on behavior and environment.

“If you’re born into a poor family, you already have a lot of deficits you have to overcome,” Faul said.

She said not eating healthy foods, being physically inactive and living with an untreated substance abuse or mental health disorder can all work against a person’s health — regardless of their socioeconomic status.

“All play a role in the end for older adults not to be healthy and then die prematurely,” Faul said. “If you don’t keep your environment healthy, then that is exactly what’s going to happen.”

Joe D’Ambrosio, director of Health Innovation and Sustainability for the U of L institute, said the organization¬†is promoting coordinated care in areas where people have difficulties accessing health care and services.

“We’re trying to provide transportation for them to get to doctors, bring doctors to their homes even, provide fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said. “Not just tell them to be healthy, but helping them be healthy.”

D’Ambrosio said the institute isn’t segregating initiatives promoting healthy behavior¬†based on neighborhoods in Louisville.

“You could be living in the richest neighborhood in Louisville and still be poor in health,” he said. “Your health could be terrible. You could be eating terrible food. So, this message is really one of community health and population health.”

Overall, the life expectancy for low-income residents in Louisville is 77.9 years, which places the city in the bottom 10 nationally.

The average life expectancy among low-income individuals nationwide is 79.4 years.