Choosing to retire in the right metropolitan area can increase life span, according to a recent study.
Researchers from MIT and Stanford University compared metro areas to determine how they affect the longevity of older adults who move there.
They found that for a 65-year-old moving from a metro area in the 10th percentile (lowest 10%) in terms of improving longevity for a metro area in the 90th percentile (top 10%), life expectancy increases by 1.1 years. This equates to about 5% of life expectancy remaining at age 65.
In a press release from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it called the increase a “remarkable boost.” According to co-author Amy Finkelstein, a professor and economist at MIT:
“There is an intrinsically important causal effect of where you live as an adult on mortality and life expectancy across the United States.”
Previous studies have found regional variation in life expectancy in the United States, but the MIT/Stanford study, published in the American Economic Review, went further by analyzing the impact of the movement.
Finkelstein and the study’s other co-authors — Stanford economics professors Matthew Gentzko and Heidi Williams — looked closely at how two people coming from the same location (such as Boston) succeeded after moving to two different locations (such as Minneapolis and Houston).
The researchers used Medicare health insurance records linked to millions of seniors to determine how healthy seniors were before moving, and to try to explore how location might affect the longevity of those who move there.
The researchers found that many urban areas on both the East Coast and the West Coast helped boost the longevity of those who moved there. These metros include New York City, San Francisco, and Miami. Some metros in the Midwest – such as Chicago – also performed well.
By contrast, metros in the Deep South and Southwest performed poorly. These included metros in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and northern Florida, as well as parts of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.
As for the exact reason why some areas promote longevity more than others, Finkelstein says more research is needed before the answer is clear:
“The differences in healthcare across places are large and potentially important. But there are also differences in pollution and weather. [and] other aspects. What we need to do now is go inside the black box of ‘The Place’ and find out what matters to them for their longevity.”
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