Living here could add years to your life

Research shows it outranks most counties in state

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- Living in this Central Illinois community might just add a few years on to your life. It may not be the first place you think of retiring, but settling down in Champaign County could be good for your health.

Most people understand life expectancy depends on what country you live in, but you might not know it's affected by what county you live in as well.

There are more than 3,000 counties in the United States. Not all of them are equal. In fact, life expectancy can vary by as much as 20 years across county lines.

New research published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine started making headlines. It's a county-by-county look at the average life expectancy over three decades.

In Central Illinois, Champaign County ranks among the highest (if not the highest) as far as that goes. The average is believed to be about 80-years.

Staff at the UI's Center for Health, Aging and Disability say the findings are not surprising.

"There are a lot of opportunities for older people to connect socially," says Outreach Director Wendy Bartlo. "We know that social isolation and perceived loneliness in old age can have health outcomes similar to smoking. But there's a lot of opportunities for older people to connect in our community."

By contrast, going just one county over, the life expectancy changes. Vermilion County's appears to be about five years less.

Bartlo says another one of the reasons Champaign County ranks high is because of the high population of educated people, which researchers often associate with living a long time.

Whether you live to 100 or not, Champaign-Urbana is already recognized for giving retirees a warm reception. The cities are on AARP's "Age-Friendly" list. It means community leaders have been recognized for their commitment to making the area enjoyable for all ages.


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