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Lake County falls behind others on life expectancy

Sonoma County residents can look forward to some of the longest lives in California, according to a report released Wednesday showing life expectancy across the nation trails much of the rest of the world.

But not so their neighbors up north in Lake County, according to data from University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which say life expectancy there is among the state's lowest.

Between 2000 and 2007, the expected life span for men in Lake County increased from 72.9 years to 73.2 years, but that figure was still the third lowest in the state.

For women in the county, life expectancy actually declined during the same period from 79 years to 78.4 years, the worst in California.

"It doesn't come as a huge surprise in terms of ranking relatively low," said Karen Tait, Lake County's public health officer. "We do know we have some huge health challenges here."

Those include higher than average rates of smoking, unemployment, obesity and substance abuse as well as more limited access to medical resources, she said.

"We are a rural county and we are a fairly socio-economically stressed county," Tait said.

By contrast, Sonoma County women saw life expectancy increase from 80.7 years to 82.1 years during the same period, good for 16th best among the state's 58 counties. Men's average life-span increased from 76.6 years to 77.8 years, 13th in the state.

To help create the report, researchers used mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics showing locations of all deaths from 1959 to 2007.

The report suggests a tight correlation between wealth and life expectancy. Marin County, for example, topped the state for life expectancy — and is among the highest in the nation — while poor counties like Yuba, Del Norte and Lake were in the basement.

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