Study looks at relationship between where Utahns live, their health

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SALT LAKE CITY -- How does your zip code affect your health?

A research team at Brigham Young University looked at the social factors that shape or define the health of Utahns. The findings were presented at a conference held Thursday in Salt Lake County.

Life expectancy was compared in 63 small communities across Utah, and it turns out the healthiest neighborhood with the highest life expectancy rate in the state sits in the same county just a few miles from the lowest.

“These are the factors: where we are born, were we live, work and where we play,” said Dr. Len Novilla, who is an associate professor in the health science department at BYU.

Novilla has spent countless days researching the longevity of communities from Ogden to St. George.

“We found out that in Salt Lake County in particular, there are small areas such as the University of Utah Foothill area where people live the longest in the state of Utah,” Novilla said.

For the University of Utah/Foothill neighborhood in Salt Lake City, life expectancy is 84.5 years, head south west just a few miles and the life expectancy number decreases. Downtown Salt Lake is 78.

“And then go further south, in South Salt Lake the people actually live about 73.8 years, which is the shortest life expectancy in the state of Utah,” Novilla said.

The study looks at health behaviors like smoking, obesity, food environment and physical inactivity. Environment, social and economic factors were also considered and compared.

The information was presented Friday at the Building Healthy Communities conference in West Jordan.

“How can we bring a variety of different sectors together, not just the health department not just the healthcare sector, but can we include education, law enforcement, non-profit sector? All the municipalities to work together to improve our health rankings,” said Lori Bays, who is the Human Services Department director for Salt Lake County.

When it comes to counties, Morgan ranked the healthiest, Cache and Wasatch counties followed, Salt Lake was 12th and Carbon County was at the bottom of the list.

“Trying to bring all the groups together to understand that the health of the community is bigger than just health and health care but that we all play a role,” said Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.

Click here for more details on the county health rankings.

Click here for life expectancy information for smaller areas of the state.