It had been expected that female mortality would drop as the years push forward, due to the advancements in medicine and technology. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Health Affairs found this not to be true in a large number of counties spread across the United States.
Researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng from the University of Wisconsin found that nationally, female mortality fell from 324 to 318 per 100,000 overall.
However, female mortality was increased in 42.8 percent of the 3,140 U.S. counties for women 75 years old and younger. Male mortality only increased in 3.4 percent of the counties for the same period.
The researchers compared two periods of records. One was from 1992-1996 and the other was from 2002-2006.
This disturbing trend means that women died at an alarming rate in certain parts of the country in those years. The counties that had a rise in female mortality were predominantly in the South and Midwest.
Researchers are not sure why there was a rise in female deaths in those particular areas. Professor Kindig expressed to Huffington Post that the reasons are complicated and probably related to a combination of factors rather than one or two alone.
Researchers found that those counties with the higher rates were more often found to be rural with smaller populations. Areas with lower populations sometimes affect statistics but the researchers attempted to stabilize the results by using five-year averages.
At the same time, those areas did not have less medical services available, nor was it found that female Hispanics or African Americans were the main groups affected. In fact, more disadvantaged White women had the larger rise.
Women in those counties affected were found to have higher incidence of smoking and obesity, only had a high school education, and had decreased income.
Huffington Post reported that some think the statistics could reflect a migration of healthier women out of rural areas, leaving behind those who are too poor or in too poor a state of health to relocate.
Christopher Murray, a University of Washington researcher did a similar study two years ago and found similar findings of increased female death rates in the south. Since migration did not affect male death rates, Murray disagrees with that theory.
Hillary Clinton made a strong reference in her speech at the Women in the World Summit 2013 about how incongruous these finding are with our position as a world leader.
"Think about it for a minute. We are the richest and most powerful country in the world. Yet many American women today are living shorter lives than their mothers, especially those with the least education,” said Clinton. (3)
The causes of premature death in women needs more attention. Researcher Kindig noted in the study’s conclusion that the causes may be different for different counties. Some may need to address smoking and obesity. Others should work on decreasing poverty with job creation.
Each county would have to examine the needs of the women they serve at a deeper level in order to turn this trend around.
1. David A. Kindig and Erika R. Cheng. Even As Mortality Fell In Most US Counties, Female Mortality Nonetheless Rose In 42.8 Percent Of Counties From 1992 To 2006. Health Aff March 2013 vol. 32 no. 3 451-458. Abstract.
2. Women's Lifespan Declining For Some In US, Says Study. Huffington Post Women. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
3. This Map Of US Female Mortality Will Break Your Heart. Business Insider Politics. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith