In Johnson County, where you live predicts how long you’ll live

The UCS slide showing the life expectancy disparity among Johnson County communities.
The UCS slide showing the life expectancy disparity among Johnson County communities.

Spend most of your time among the mansions and leafy green streets of Hallbrook, and you’re likely to celebrate your 84th birthday. Spend most of your time in the neighborhoods along I-35 in Mission and Merriam, and you can expect to live six years less.

The results of a recent analysis of health outcome data released by United Community Services of Johnson County and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment suggest that where you live in Johnson County has a major impact on just how long you’ll live.

The analysis, presented at the Kansas Policy Forum held at the Matt Ross Community Center in Overland Park last week, suggest that despite their geographic proximity, neighborhoods in Johnson County can produce widely different health outcomes for their residents.

Through a grant provided by the Kansas Health Foundation, UCS and JCDHE collaborated to see whether there were statistically significant variations in key health outcomes for different communities within Johnson County. The researcher on the project found nine zip codes here with data sets that could produce life expectancy results with an extremely high degree of statistical accuracy. The findings suggest that people who live in areas with lower income levels, high cost of housing relative to income, and physical spaces that don’t promote walking and exercise have significantly shorter life expectancies.

These so-called “social determinants of health,” social and economic factors as well as the surrounding physical environment, have been shown to play an outsized role in health outcomes, like life expectancy and the amount of money spent on health care.

Kathryn Evans Madden, the Poverty Project Manager at UCS, said the analysis shows that in Johnson County, reduced life expectancy appears to be most pronounced along the I-35 corridor, and in exurban areas like Olathe and DeSoto. The 66018 zip code area, which straddles K-10 in the DeSoto area, had the lowest life expectancy in the analysis at 76 years. The 66223 zip code area, which covers part of southern Overland Park from 135th to 159th Streets, had the highest life expectancy at 85 years.

The 66211 area code, which encompasses Hallbrook and surrounding high-end subdivisions, has a life expectancy of 84 years. The 66202 area code, which sits just east of I-35 in Mission and Merriam, has a life expectancy of 78 years.

The average life expectancy across Johnson County is 81 years.

“The most obvious thing from the results is that depending on where you live in Johnson County, there could be as much as a nine year difference in life expectancy,” Evans Madden said.

When researchers compare the mortality data to information about poverty levels, housing cost and other factors, they see a correlation between social determinants of health and how long people can expect to live.

“Basically you see a trend with the social determinants of health, where there is a correlation with the burden of housing costs, racial inequality and other social and environmental determinants, and life expectancy,” Evans Madden said.

The presentation delivered by UCS at last week’s Kansas Public Policy forum is embedded below:

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