Women in Oklahoma are living shorter lives in more than half of the counties in Oklahoma, life expectancy data shows.
It’s a pretty jarring number, especially when compared to life expectancy trends among men in Oklahoma.
From 1985 to 2010, the life expectancy among women in 48 of Oklahoma’s counties decreased, according to data collected by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.
What’s happening to Oklahoma’s women?
Data experts have noticed decreases in female life expectancy throughout the U.S., as noted in this article:
… a July report from University of Washington researcher Chris Murray … found that inequality in women’s health outcomes steadily increased between 1985 and 2010, with female life expectancy stagnating or declining in 45 percent of U.S. counties. Taken together, the two studies underscore a disturbing trend: While advancements in medicine and technology have prolonged U.S. life expectancy and decreased premature deaths overall, women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before. The worst part is no one knows why.
One reason could be Oklahoma’s smoking rate. Some Oklahoma leaders have voiced concerns during interviews about the smoking rate among women in Oklahoma, which they say isn’t declining as quickly among women as it is among men. They told me that they were worried that, if a high rate of Oklahoman women continue to smoke, it will affect life expectancy. Typically, women live longer than men, but they have been worried we would see a shift in that trend as well.
Other health experts suggest that not only smoking rates have affected female life expectancy rates but also obesity, high blood pressure, and other behaviors and conditions that contribute to poor health.
And a big factor could be education, as this article points out:
…Jennifer Karas Montez, a social demographer who studies health inequalities, co-authored a study that …. found that while smoking accounts for half of the decline in life expectancy among these women, whether or not a woman has a job is equally significant …
In fact, only one-third of women without a high-school diploma are employed, compared to half of their male counterparts, and nearly three-quarters of better-educated women. When they are employed, Montez said, it is usually in low-wage jobs that offer no benefits or flexibility. Smoking and other destructive behaviors, she added, may just be symptoms of the heightened stress and loneliness experienced by women who don’t graduate from high school.