Life expectancies increase over time. That’s pretty much a law of nature. Absent an epidemic, seeing them move in the wrong direction is a strong diagnostic of social dislocation (e.g., Russian male death rates before and after Gorbachev).

So this graphic from the LA Times, showing declining female life expectancy in some U.S. counties over the decade 1997-2007, is pretty scary:

Does the map remind you of anything?

Now, maps are tricky things; the areas don’t match perfectly (West Virginia has a big vote swing but no increasing-mortality counties) and it may be that the mortality-rate increases weren’t from the same social strata as the move toward voting Republican. But something is happening in that area, and it really ain’t good.

It would be nice if our political and media class worried about real problems like this one and real threats like global warming rather than mostly imaginary problems and threats having to do with public finance.

Update: Here’s the picture for males, over a 20-year rather than a 10-year timespan. To my eyeball, the match to the vote-swing map is even closer. Is Tea Partying a mortality risk?

Underlying study here. Not cheerful reading.

[Cross-posted at Same Facts]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.