The 10 States Where People Die At The Youngest Age, Ranked

Trigger warning: This article mentions drug misuse and suicide.

As shocking as it may seem in 2024, if you're a United States resident, your life expectancy can, at least in part, be determined by where you live. According to the Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker, the life expectancy in the U.S. is lower on average than comparable countries. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, the mortality rate in the U.S. had risen to approximately 79 years, but has since dropped to as low as 76 years old. 

There are a number of reasons why the life expectancy number in the U.S. is trending lower, according to Harvard Medical School. These include accidental injuries, drug overdoses, and COVID-19. Additionally, there are other factors to consider, including tobacco use, homicide, and suicide (via Our World in Data). Obesity also plays a role in the high mortality rate across the country, with 70% of Americans being overweight and 36% suffering from obesity. 

Looking at the data, these are the states where you may be most at risk for an early death, whether from these factors or others.  

10. South Carolina

Per USA Facts, the life expectancy in South Carolina is 74.8 years, or more than two years lower than the national average. In 2021, the age-adjusted death rate in the state was 29% higher than in 2019 before the COVID pandemic. Also, the state has seen an almost 40% rise in infant mortality since 2017 (via the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control). The causes of death among infants in South Carolina ranged from birth defects, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or accidental deaths such as strangulation or suffocation. 

The University of South Carolina reports that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the state. There are a number of reasons why so many South Carolina residents suffer from heart problems (via For one thing, many people living in the state live sedentary lifestyles, with more than half of them not getting the minimum amount of physical activity. In addition, more than 70% of South Carolina residents are overweight or obese, and more than a third suffer from high blood pressure, which makes them three times more likely to die from heart disease.  

9. New Mexico

According to a report from NY Requirements, New Mexico has a death rate of 11,896 per 100,000 people before the age of 75. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics (via CDC) place the life expectancy of New Mexico residents at 74.5 years of age; per New Mexico's Health Indicator Data & Statistics, men in New Mexico can expect to live to be around 71.8 years old. A 2023 report from WalletHub points to drug use as being one of the biggest problems that New Mexico faces. In fact, the state ranked as the worst in the country when it came to drug use.

A 2023 report from the New Mexico Legislature identified alcohol use as the state's biggest substance misuse problem, noting that, in 2021, six people died every day from alcohol use. Despite these numbers, the Legislature pointed out that the ongoing alcohol problem in New Mexico does not receive the same attention as other issues in the state, such as drug misuse. That said, drug use in New Mexico is also a serious problem, with drugs claiming the lives of three people a day in 2021.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

8. Oklahoma

If you live in Oklahoma, you can expect to live an average of 74.1 years (via USA Facts). Part of that can be attributed to drug use, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Between 2019 and 2022, the number of drug-related deaths increased by 112%, primarily from methamphetamine use. Deaths related to methamphetamine saw a 19-fold increase over 15 years, with the number rising from 39 annual deaths to more than 730 over that time. 

According to The Oklahoman, gun violence is also a factor in the high mortality rate in the Sooner state. A study conducted by the newspaper revealed that, over the course of 15 months, there were 10 months that saw 70 or more gun-related deaths. In June of 2020 alone, there were 95 deaths caused by guns. The report showed that over 8,600 people had been killed by guns in Oklahoma since 2010, making the state's firearm death rate the 12th highest in the United States.

7. Arkansas

The CDC puts the life expectancy of Arkansas residents at 73.8 years. According to Aspire Arkansas, Hispanic and Latino Arkansans had the highest life expectancy, while Black residents had the lowest, living to an average of 72 years. In general, women in Arkansas tend to live longer, with the average Arkansas woman living to 79 years compared to 74 years for men. 

Among the leading causes of death in Arkansas is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD (via the COPD Foundation). On average, the rate of COPD in Arkansas is higher than the national average, with close to 60% of every 100,000 residents dying from the disease each year. The annual cost of treatment for COPD in the state is close to $300 million. Additionally, suicide is a key element in the mortality rate in Arkansas (via KFF). The rate of suicide in Arkansas is higher than the national average, with the majority of deaths being attributed to suicide by firearm.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

6. Tennesee

The average Tennessean can expect to live to around 73.8 years, which is lower than the national average by more than four years (via Axios). Women in general live longer than men in Tennessee, with an average life expectancy of 77 years compared to men's 70.7 years. Overall, and thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the life expectancy in the state dropped approximately 1.8 years between 2019 and 2020.

There are a number of issues in Tennessee that are contributing to the state's lower life expectancy (via The state's comparatively low income and education levels, combined with a high rate of obesity and drug problems, have contributed to shortened lifespans. In addition, tobacco use is a particular problem. The American Lung Association reports that Tennessee's efforts to reduce and prevent the use of tobacco are among the worst in the country. On the Association's annual "State of Tobacco Control" test in 2019, Tennessee earned four failing grades and one "D" when it came to preventing the use of tobacco, including e-cigarettes, across the state.

5. Kentucky

In recent years, the life expectancy in Kentucky has dropped 3.4 years, which represents the largest drop in the state in two decades (via the Courier-Journal). CDC estimates peg the state's life expectancy at 73.5 years. The steep drop can be partially blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are other issues impacting the life expectancy of Kentucky residents. These include violence, drug misuse, and such health issues as heart and liver disease. 

One of Kentucky's biggest issues is tobacco use, according to the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS). They list tobacco use as the number one health threat  facing the state, accounting for 30% of all cancer deaths and more than 80% of deaths from lung cancer. The report notes that the rate of cigarette use among young people in Kentucky far exceeds the national average. At that rate, CHFS estimates that more than 87,000 Kentucky residents who are 18 years of age or younger will likely die prematurely from smoking. 

4. Alabama

With 1,1342 deaths per 100,000 residents, Alabama residents can, on average, expect to live for approximately 73.2 years (via USA Facts). Heart disease is the main culprit in Alabama, with close to 250 per 100,000 residents succumbing to the condition. These numbers put Alabama's heart disease death rate at more than 40% higher than the national average. 

The Equal Justice Initiative notes that almost a quarter of the children in Alabama are living in poverty, and one in five children do not have access to proper nutrition or even sufficient food. In 2023, the University of Alabama in Huntsville revealed that environmental and social conditions in the state could be impacting the mortality rate. For example, as the University noted, 58 out of 67 Alabama counties qualified as "medically underserved," suffered from poverty and low literacy, and were burdened by such health issues as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

3. Louisiana

The CDC lists the Bayou State as having a life expectancy of 73.1 years, making it the state with the third-shortest life expectancy in the United States. They also cite heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19 as being among the primary causes of death. Overall, Louisiana's death rate from heart disease is the fifth-highest overall in the country. 

A 2022 report from the Louisiana Department of Health points out a number of problems facing Louisiana residents when it comes to dying prematurely. For one thing, the report notes, the homicide rate in Louisiana is the third highest in the country, with Orleans Parish (in which the city of New Orleans is located), having the fifth highest homicide rate compared to every other county in the United States. In 2020 alone, homicides cost the state more than $10 billion. In addition to homicides and suicides, the report revealed that approximately 7,000 Louisiana residents die every year from fatal injuries, including poisoning, suffocation, and motor vehicle incidents. 

2. West Virginia

The CDC places the life expectancy for people living in West Virginia at 72.8 years, making it one of the lowest in the United States. According to USA Facts, the death rate in West Virginia is 1,299.1 deaths for every 100,000 residents. Additionally, more than 6% of the state's residents were not covered by health insurance, which can contribute to the state's woeful mortality rates. 

There are a number of reasons why people tend to die younger in West Virginia than in many other states, according to an article in The Denver Post. Many of the problems that affect the country seem to hit West Virginia first. Obesity, for example, was a major issue in the state before it became a nationwide issue. Additionally, the death rate numbers in America are now where West Virginia was a decade ago. Drugs are also a problem, with the mortality rate in some areas going as low as 62 years as a result of opioid misuse and overdose. 

1. Mississippi

According to the CDC, Mississippi is one of the worst states to live in if you're hoping to live to a ripe old age. The average life expectancy in the state is a woeful 71.9 years. The Clarion-Ledger notes that this represents a steep drop in numbers from 2019, when the life expectancy was 74.4 years. COVID-19 was certainly a factor, as was the case with the majority of the United States, but Mississippi has also been plagued by problems with economic stability and access to quality education and healthcare. Data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service showed that 19.2% of the state lives below the poverty line.

A 2019 study from showed that Mississippi ranks second in the U.S. for heart disease and cancer. Approximately 231 people per 100,000 in Missisippi can expect to be impacted by heart disease. More than 180 residents of the state for every 100,000 people will also die from cancer.