CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Men who live in regions with high unemployment and low-paying jobs are more likely to die from heart disease than those in other parts of the country, a study released Wednesday found.
The study of men age 35 and older found those living in Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky were more likely to die of heart disease than men elsewhere in the U.S., while those in Hawaii, Utah and Colorado were less likely.
"These findings really reflect differences in opportunities for healthy living and differences in access to healthy living," said Elizabeth Barnett, director of the Office for Social Environmental and Health Research at West Virginia University. Ms. Barnett was the lead author of the study by WVU and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report, based on heart disease death rates between 1991 and 1995, found the highest rates in Appalachia, the Ohio-Mississippi River Valley, the Mississippi Delta, and the eastern Piedmont and coastal regions of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Many of the same areas have large pockets with low median family incomes, few white collar jobs and high unemployment rates.
The underlying social and economic factors often determine whether a person is able to exercise or eat healthy, Ms. Barnett said. Other risk factors include lack of social support, depression, job stress, adverse work environment, racism and discrimination, she said.
Overall, the heart disease death rate for all men was 675 per 100,000.
Mississippi had the highest rate with 878 deaths per 100,000. West Virginia was second with 797 deaths per 100,000, followed by Kentucky with 783. Hawaii's rate, 482 per 100,000, was the lowest in the nation.
Among racial groups, there were 841 deaths per 100,000 black men, 666 for white men, 465 for American Indian and Alaska natives, 432 for Hispanics and 372 for Asians and Pacific Islanders.
The report mirrors findings from a companion study released last year on heart disease among women in the same age range, who have a death rate of 401 per 100,000.
Both studies found that higher rates were concentrated in the same parts of the country and differences existed across racial and ethnic groups.
"What is similar is the pattern, which shows that, in fact, these social and economic issues are important," said George A. Mensah, chief of the CDC's Cardiovascular Health Program. "If we are going to address these disparities, we must pay attention to these factors."
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