Average life expectancy at birth in the United States is 78.5 years. However, the range of life expectancy across the country is nearly 10 years and depends largely on the city.
In the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV metro area, life expectancy is 80.4 years at birth, greater than the average life expectancy nationwide.
Nationwide, women live an average of 4.7 years longer than men. In the Washington D.C. metro area, life expectancy among females is 82.3 years, about four years longer than males.
Average life expectancy is often closely tied to the health behaviors and habits of a given population. Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and the typical smoker’s life expectancy is about 10 years shorter than that of a nonsmoker. While it is not always the case, pervasive tobacco use often correlates with a lower regional life expectancy. In Washington D.C., 13.1% of adult residents identify as smokers, compared to the 17.0% of American adults who report a smoking habit.
The prevalence of obesity has also been linked to premature death. Obese Americans tend to exhibit a range of unhealthy behaviors, and are more likely to suffer from other life-threatening conditions like diabetes and heart disease. As a group, obese people have a lower life expectancy than healthy individuals. In the Washington D.C. metro area, 24.3% of adults are obese, less than the national rate of 27.0%.
Higher educational attainment among a given population is also linked to longer lifespans. According to one study, an extra year of education increases earnings by roughly 10%, which ultimately improves life expectancy by about two months. An estimated 49.3% of Washington D.C. adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a larger share than the U.S. college attainment rate of 30.6%.