Study: Where you live in central Indiana affects your life expectancy

(WTHR file photo)
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Your ZIP code could play a big role in determining your life expectancy, according to a new study. 

The IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, in partnership with SAVI Community Information System, released research findings that reveal striking differences in life expectancy among central Indiana communities.

For example, according to the study, residents of a Hamilton County suburb have an average life expectancy that is 14 years higher than the life expectancy of residents closer to downtown Indianapolis – 83.7 years compared to just 69.4 years.

Read more about the study's findings.

Researchers say the distance between the 46033 ZIP code in Carmel and the 46225 ZIP code in south central Indianapolis may be just 28 miles, but when it comes to life expectancy, it is worlds apart.  Researchers at the Fairbanks School of Public Health found that in the metro Indianapolis community with the lowest life expectancy in the survey area, a baby born today is likely to live only as long as a baby born in the United States more than 60 years ago, an average life span equivalent to that of babies born in countries with poor health, such as Iran, Uzbekistan or Bangladesh.

“Life expectancy says as much – or more- about how societies are structured as it does about health,” said Tess Weathers, a faculty member in the Social and Behavioral Sciences department at the Fairbanks School of Public Health and the lead researcher on the project. “By working with our partners at SAVI and utilizing their expertise in precise mapping, we were able to look at life expectancy in Central Indiana with fresh eyes.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 75 percent of a population’s health is attributed to upstream “social determinants of health,” or the “circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age.” 

Read more about the study's findings.

Fairbanks School of Public Health and SAVI are hoping that many local groups will use the research to draw attention to the social conditions that lead to these disparities in life expectancy. Their goal is to reshape society in ways that give all children, no matter their ZIP code, a fair opportunity for long and healthy lives. 

“Suddenly, you realize that a very small distance can make a big difference in the trajectory of a person’s life,” Weathers said. “And then you have to ask yourself why is that? And what can we do about it? We hope this report starts a conversation and brings diverse voices together to look for answers to the questions. A gap of this size should not exist in the heartland of America.”

The report’s calculations of life expectancy at birth are based on death record data from the Indiana State Department of Health and corresponding population size in a given county or zip code during the five-year period from 2009 to 2013.