Personal Finance

Living in These Metro Areas Boosts Retiree Lifespans

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Choosing to retire in the right metropolitan area can boost your lifespan, according to recent study.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University compared metro areas to determine how they affect the longevity of seniors who move there.

They found that for a 65-year-old who moves from a metro area in the 10th percentile (the bottom 10%) in terms of longevity enhancement to a metro area in the 90th percentile (the top 10%), life expectancy rises by 1.1 years. That equates to about 5% of the average remaining life expectancy at age 65.

In an MIT press release, the increase is characterized as “a notable boost.” According to co-author Amy Finkelstein, an MIT professor and economist:

“There’s a substantively important causal effect of where you live as an elderly adult on mortality and life expectancy across the United States.”

Past studies have found regional variation in life expectancy in the U.S., but the MIT/Stanford study, published in American Economic Review, went a step further by analyzing the impact of moving.

Finkelstein and the study’s other co-authors — Stanford economics professors Matthew Gentzkow and Heidi Williams — looked closely at how two people coming from the same location (such as Boston) fared after moving to two different locations (such as Minneapolis and Houston).

The researchers used Medicare health insurance records associated with millions of seniors to both establish how healthy the seniors were prior to moving, and to try to tease out how a location might impact the longevity of those who move there.

The researchers found that many urban areas of both the East Coast and West Coast helped boost the longevity of those who moved there. Such metros include New York City, San Francisco and Miami. Some Midwestern metros — 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 precisely why some areas promote longevity more than others, Finkelstein says more research is needed before the answer is clear:

“Differences in health care across places are large and potentially important. But there are also differences in pollution, weather, [and] other aspects. What we need to do now is get inside the black box of ‘the place’ and figure out what it is about them that matters for longevity.”

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