This has been in the news in the last few days, but as far as I know it first appeared in the literature over a year ago:
“Falling behind: life expectancy in US counties from 2000 to 2007 in an international context”
Sandeep C Kulkarni, Alison Levin-Rector, Majid Ezzati and Christopher JL Murray
Population Health Metrics 2011, 9:16
As the Los Angeles Times reported then:
"In 737 U.S. counties out of more than 3,000, life expectancies for women declined between 1997 and 2007. For life expectancy to decline in a developed nation is rare. Setbacks on this scale have not been seen in the U.S. since the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, according to demographers.To my mind -- as a self-employed, middle-aged American with pre-existing conditions, who has great difficulty getting the health care I need -- this is the most worrisome trend in the country. I wish it would get asked about at the Presidential debates -- but, since the Big Media moderators all have big incomes and great health benefits, I doubt very much that it will. Let's face it -- few people care, and Mitt Romney is the least of them. (Even Barack Obama doesn't dare venture into the poorer parts of the country.)
The backsliding for women began before 1997, but researchers found it had accelerated in the last decade. Only 227 counties saw women's life expectancy decline between 1987 and 1997, according to the study.
The worst-performing counties were clustered primarily in Appalachia, the Deep South and the lower Midwest. In those places, women died as much as a year younger in 2007 than women did a decade earlier. Life expectancy for women slipped 2 1/2 years in Madison County, Miss., which recorded the biggest regression."
As Harold Meyerson writes in the Washington Post:
The market is not just redistributing income in the United States, then. It is redistributing life.