The latest from Clark Williams-Derry at the Sightline Institute:
Living Longer in British Columbia
Life expectancy reached a new high in both British Columbia and in Washington last year. That’s good news, since it means that the residents of both jurisdictions are living longer, healthier lives. …
But what’s genuinely interesting is that life expectancy is rising much faster in some places than in others. As of 1980, for example, lifespans in Washington and British Columbia were nearly in a dead heat: 75.1 years for Washington, 75.8 for BC. Yet since then, BC has pulled ahead.
By 2013, lifespans in BC had reached 82.7 years, compared with just 80.4 years in Washington—a gap of 2.3 years, which is wider than at any point since Washington began annual reporting of life expectancy statistics. …
So the fact that BC residents live longer probably means that they also spend more time in good health. And it also means that overall health has been improving faster for residents of the province than for its neighbors directly to the south.
Why is that? BC’s decades of universal health insurance almost certainly play a role. But BC has other public health advantages, including lower rates of smoking, obesity, car crashes, and suicide. And underlying many of these trends, Canadian income inequality—while relatively high by international standards—is still lower than in the US. Economic inequality is tightly correlated with poor health, as well as other adverse social outcomes.
In short, BC has a number of small health advantages that add up to a two to three year life expectancy advantage over the jurisdictions just tp the province’s south. And that suggests that any systematic look at how to improve health in US states ought to look not only inward, but also outward—and examine not only what we’re doing wrong, but also at what other parts of the world are doing right.