In Boston, Just Two Miles Means 23-Year Difference In Life Expectancy

According to a grammar analysis conducted by the Boston Public Health Commission, a mere two-mile distance between Back Bay and Nubian Square in Roxbury results in a 23-year difference in life expectancy in Boston.

In Boston, a two-mile difference in where you live may mean a 23-year difference in life expectancy.

That startling analysis from the Boston Public Health Commission shows the longest average life expectancy is nearly 92 years, for residents in a section of the Back Bay. Residents near Nubian Square in Roxbury have the shortest expected life span, just under 69 years.

“It’s really disturbing,” said Boston’s Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bisola Ojikutu. “So much work has gone into improving life expectancy for individuals. It feels discouraging.”

The two neighborhoods, highlighted in a report released Friday, are vastly different in many ways. The median household income of the census tract within Roxbury is $42,211, versus $141,250 in the Back Bay tract. Rates of homeownership in the Back Bay are more than double those in Roxbury.

A vast majority, some 91%, of Back Bay residents over the age of 25 have a college degree, compared to 44% in Roxbury. And 82% of residents in the Back Bay tract are white, while 87% in the Roxbury tract are people of color, predominantly Black or Latinx, the report said.

All of these factors play a role in life expectancy. Ojikutu said the stress of trying to live on low wages and combat racism, sometimes in substandard housing while not feeling safe, erodes health.

“Chronic stress leads to higher blood pressure and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease,” said Ojikutu. Chronic stress can also increase levels of the hormone cortisol, which can “increase your risk of weight gain, obesity, and diabetes.

“I think all of these things are interconnected,” she said.

Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission, on Dudley St. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission, on Dudley St. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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1 COMMENT

  1. Yes, chronic stress, gangbanging, and other issues can cause a shortening of average life span in an area. I would point to the nutrition of those in the area as an even greater indication of shortened lifespan. A diet with seed oils predominating with large amounts of sugar is guaranteed to cause all the ailments our minority communities suffer from.

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