Valley’s life expectancy now above state, national averages

The average life expectancy at birth in parts of the Rio Grande Valley exceeded the averages at the state and the national level as of 2015, according to data gathered between 2010 and 2015.

In Hidalgo County, the average life expectancy of 80.34 is higher than the state average of 78.8, and higher than the national average, which sits at 78.7, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The average in Cameron County is slightly lower than Hidalgo’s, though still higher than the state and national at 79. In Starr County, however, the average is 77.39.

The data provided is broken down by census tract, giving not just the life expectancy for each but also information such as population, the percentage without health insurance, the percentage unemployed, and median income.

Throughout the Valley, there did not appear to be a correlation between life expectancy and median income, unemployment rate, or the rate of insured.

However, when looking at a map of the data, the tracts with the highest life expectancy rates are concentrated in the McAllen, Edinburg, Mission, Pharr and Weslaco areas; though it should be noted that some tracts in Edinburg and McAllen had lower life expectancy than the state average.

Those cities also happen to be home to most of the hospitals in the Valley, including Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Edinburg Regional Medical Center, McAllen Medical Center, McAllen Heart Hospital, Rio Grande Regional Hospital, Mission Regional Medical Center and Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco.

Harlingen and Brownsville, both of which are home to multiple hospitals, also have high life expectancies.

Some areas away from hospitals also have a high expectancy, such as two tracts in western Hidalgo County: one in the Sullivan City area that has a life expectancy of 6.3 years longer than the state average, and the other in the La Joya and Peñitas area, which sits at 8.6 years longer than the state.

While the life expectancy in most of Starr County is slightly less than the state average, one area in Roma has a higher life expectancy than the state by 4.5 years at 83.3 years.

There are also pockets of low life expectancy in otherwise high expectancy areas, such as a tract in Cameron County.

This tract, located in Brownsville, has the lowest expectancy in the three counties at 68.7 years, more than 10 years less than the state average.