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How long will you live? Your address may offer a hint

Residents wave signs to encourage the Fresno City Council to find funds to establish a senior citizens center during a June 2018 council meeting. Fresno is the fifth-largest city in the state, yet unlike many smaller communities in the county has no dedicated senior citizens center. New data shows that life expectancies in Fresno neighborhoods varies widely from one census tract to another, from about 70 years old to 85 years and up.
Residents wave signs to encourage the Fresno City Council to find funds to establish a senior citizens center during a June 2018 council meeting. Fresno is the fifth-largest city in the state, yet unlike many smaller communities in the county has no dedicated senior citizens center. New data shows that life expectancies in Fresno neighborhoods varies widely from one census tract to another, from about 70 years old to 85 years and up. Fresno Bee file

People in many neighborhoods in central and south Fresno tend to have shorter life expectancies than residents in northeast and northwest Fresno.

Life-expectancy estimates released this week by the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Association of Public Health Statistics are the results of five years of research down to the census tract level nationwide. It’s the first time that the federal government has made such small-area data available to the public. And what those figures show is that where you live seems to have a correlation to how long you might be expected to live.

The estimates offer a glimpse of life expectancy from birth for babies born in more than 190 U.S. Census tracts in Fresno County between 2010 and 2015. Depending on where you live in the county, a child born during that five-year span may have a life expectancy ranging from about 70 to more than 85 years. Fewer than one-third of the census tracts in Fresno County have life expectancies of 80 years or longer.

In neighboring Valley counties, life expectancies range from 75 to 83 years in Kings County; from 73 to 83 years in Madera County; and from 70 to 85 years in Tulare County.

Check your neighborhood

Use the map below to explore different neighborhoods in Fresno and Fresno County to learn the average life expectancy from one census tract to another.

Map by Tim Sheehan / The Fresno Bee

National, state comparisons

Nationwide, the average life expectancy is just over 79 years old. In California, it’s almost 81 years. Fresno County’s overall estimated life expectancy of just under 79 years is below both the state and national averages. Within Fresno County, however, the estimates vary widely from one census tract to another – even for tracts that are across the street from one another in the county’s cities.

The shortest life expectancies are found in areas of Fresno that tend to be lower income – broad swaths of central and southwest Fresno where, the data suggests, residents may be lucky if they reach the age of 77.

By contrast, the longest life expectancies in Fresno, to 85 years or older, are in three more affluent census tracts in north Fresno: the tract that includes neighborhoods surrounding the Fort Washington Country Club in northeast Fresno, and the Van Ness Boulevard Estates and Lake Van Ness areas of northwest Fresno, north and south of Herndon Avenue.

The Robert Johnson Wood Foundation, which provided a grant to help underwrite the study, addressed the importance of the data as a resource for policymakers to address economic and social differences that may contribute to longer or shorter life spans based on where people live.

“The more local the data, the more useful they can be for pinpointing disparities and driving action,” said Don Schartze, a vice president for programs at the foundation. “By measuring health at the neighborhood level, (the study) reveals gaps that may previously have gone unnoticed.”

In the coming weeks, The Bee will undertake an exploration of the data to examine census tracts in Fresno and report on possible correlations with poverty rates, income, educational attainment and other socioeconomic factors.

While no census tracts in Fresno County had life expectancies under 70 years, the estimates in a number of counties included tracts with shorter life expectancies – including one census tract in San Francisco that was the only one in the state where the projected life span was under 65 years.

Census tracts in the state with the longest life expectancies of more than 93 years were in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Interactive database

The Robert Johnson Wood Foundation has used the study to create an interactive database, where people can enter their name and address to discover, based on the research, the average life expectancy in their neighborhood.

Tim Sheehan: 559-441-6319; Twitter: @TimSheehanNews.
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