Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Are We in Shangri-La Yet?

The Bend-is-Paradise myth takes many peculiar forms. One of them is that some Bendoids apparently believe living in Bend will make people live longer. The other day I heard an acquaintance remark, "Seventy is young in Bend."

Is it really? Is Bend a Shangri La-in-the-Cascades where 70-year-olds are mere adolescents and 200-year-olds are common? Well, let's look at the numbers.

Figures on life expectancy specifically for Bend are hard to come by. However, the extremely valuable source has a table listing the 10 most common last names of deceased persons in Bend and their ages when they died. Averaging them out yields a life expectancy of 76.3 years.

The average life expectancy for the United States is 78.6 years; the average life expectancy for Oregon is 79 years. Measured against those numbers, Bend doesn't stack up very well -- despite its clean air and vaunted "healthy outdoor lifestyle."

What places do stack up well? The Top 10 11 states for life expectancy, in descending order, are Hawaii, Minnesota, California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Utah, and Colorado, Arizona and South Dakota (tied at 79.9 years).

What do those states have in common? Most of them have relatively high levels of education and income. High levels of education and income correlate with access to good medical care, and good medical care indisputably extends life expectancy.

So Bend has no magic elixir for extending life. And if you hope to hit the century mark before you check out, here's my advice: Don't move to Bend -- move to a place where there are good doctors and you can earn enough money to pay them.


Marshall_Will said...

I'm... going to respectfully disagree. Not that your general premise is in any way faulty, simply that you have to balance access to "all that great healthcare" against a backdrop of Avg. Annual Hospital visits vice those that generally shun doctors, and simply take care of themselves.

Marcos lived a lot longer than he should have too ( a-holes usually do ) by virtue of his unlimited access to physicians, facilities and oh, MONEY. The majority of HC expenses come in the last 90 days of Life.

For comparison, how is it fair someone that took care of themselves and lead a healthy lifestyle yet receives no cash benefit for he or his heirs when plenty of others have exhausted any reasonable measure of Medi-benefits several times over?

Simply put, what's cheaper for the taxpayer. People on bicycles or people on gurneys? That's coming from a guy that HATES cyclists!? When it comes to 'education' I think we've all seen enough educated fools in finance and politics to last a lifetime.

H. Bruce Miller said...

It's simply not true that a "healthy lifestyle" will protect you from disease. It will give you a statistical edge, but there's still a large element of the crap shoot involved. Some of us are simply dealt a bad genetic hand; some have accidents or catch serious diseases (e.g. pneumonia, meningitis) through no fault of their own. If a "healthy lifestyle" was the whole answer, people in the "healthy outdoor lifestyle" states of the West should outline the "unhealthy indoor lifestyle" residents of the East Coast by a wide margin. But in fact the opposite is generally true (except for Hawaii and California).

Also, good medical care can not only cure you when you get sick but also help you stay healthy, for example by helping you keep track of your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and make adjustments when they get out of line.

If I had to make an either-or choice between a "healthy lifestyle" and access to good medical care, I'd take the latter every damn time.

"When it comes to 'education' I think we've all seen enough educated fools in finance and politics to last a lifetime."

I mentioned education levels only because they correlate with income.

Marshall_Will said...

"It's simply not true that a "healthy lifestyle" will protect you from disease."

Hard to argue that. Chris Hahn ( Dem. strategist ) pointed out during the debate leading into the new HC Law, "You can run, and you can work out, but sooner or later ( you're going to get sick! )" I detest the man but it doesn't make that an untrue statement.

I would argue however, you have to give all these wonderful doctors something to work WITH. When we DO eventually fall ill, will you have a strong heart, healthy lungs and solid health to make the cost/health benefit analysis even WORTH going forward w/ the operation?

If we're going to argue, Money = Health, there'd be Aging Rockstar Homes cropping up everywhere. There aren't. I realize that's a bit dramatic but most of us are more closely aligned with "Yes to everything!" than even a 'disciplined' lifestyle.

Things to think about when you're donning that hospital shirt, waiting in the exam room for the doctor on that annual physical...

H. Bruce Miller said...

It's still amazing how long some of the old rockers are living, considering how they used to abuse their bodies. Greg Allman is about to take a 24-year-old bride at age 66.

And then there's Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who probably will never die.

Marshall_Will said...


2012's been a tough year for R & R. Michael Davis of the MC-5 passed away and Ronnie Montrose ( probably the most solid Rock guitarist evah ) Robin Gibb, Whitney, Don Cornelius and the list goes on.

Just can't help but think a more balanced set of seasons wouldn't benefit one immeasureably from a health perspective.

And I don't know if looking at life expectancies in say Palm Springs or PHX is necessarily instructive as many rust-belters bring their health issues WITH them.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Arizona is among the Top 10 for life expectancy, despite being a relatively low-income state. What accounts for that? I don't know.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Utah, of course, has the Mormon influence -- no booze, no tobacco.

H. Bruce Miller said...

And I suspect Hawaii's top rating is the product of a benign climate, relatively affluence, a laid-back lifestyle and a healthy diet (heavy on fish and fruit). Of course, as always, there are exceptions.

Marshall_Will said...


We're going thru that right now w/ my MIL. The climate ( and diet ) in the Philippines is similar. Closing in on 80 she had a stroke. The MD's told the family "take her home and make her as comfortable as possible".

That was few months ago. Initially bedridden, she's almost ready to be up & about. Hard to understand and at times, combative. But generally, in good health.

We can attribute what we may to prayer ( for a time that was all we had left ) but I'LL credit primarily having a healthy weight, awesome climate, clean lifestyle and WALKING. A near full recovery is expected.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Glad your mom-in-law pulled through. I'm a big believer in walking myself.

Cluedweasel said...

Of course, you could move to one of those socialist countries with their universal health care. We manage an average of 80.5 years in the UK, even with our "death panels".

H. Bruce Miller said...

Cluedweasel: The US lags behind most other developed countries in terms of life expectancy and many other health measures, as I'm sure you know. It's a national disgrace. And it's not all "lifestyle" either. The lifestyle in the UK isn't notably healthy, from what I've heard. More boozing and smoking than in the US.