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MailTribune.com
  • Average life span for people here is near the U.S. average

  • Having been born and raised in Southern Oregon and fast approaching 70 years of age, I've been reading the obituaries every single day, looking for the names of friends from high school and other folks I may have known in the past. I've been shocked by the number of "young" people passing away, so I decided to add up the numb...
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  • Having been born and raised in Southern Oregon and fast approaching 70 years of age, I've been reading the obituaries every single day, looking for the names of friends from high school and other folks I may have known in the past. I've been shocked by the number of "young" people passing away, so I decided to add up the numbers and see what the life expectancy is for Southern Oregon. My average for the past few weeks was right at 70, plus or minus a few years. I checked the Web and discovered the average for the United States is 79.8, for Oregon, 79.5. So my question is: Is it the water? Or have really old folks outlived their relatives and aren't able to put their own names in the obituary?
    — C. Michael K., via email
    It's not the water. It's cancer, dementia, heart disease, strokes, lower respiratory diseases and unintentional injuries.
    Or at least those were the primary causes of death in Jackson County in 2012, according to a report released by the Oregon Public Health Division. (The agency is still compiling data from 2013 and 2014.)
    State public health spokesman Jonathan Modie said that life expectancy, "a statistical measurement of life left to live depending on your age," is very different from the median age of death, which is what you are considering as you peruse our obituary section.
    "It should be noted that not every family in a community chooses to post an obituary for their loved ones, and if they do, it may only be because the person who died had, at one point, a connection to the community but may not have died or lived there," Modie said in an email.
    A two- or three-week calculation of the average life span of the people whose obituaries are listed in the Mail Tribune also doesn't take into account seasons.
    Older Oregonians will be more susceptible to viruses associated with cold weather, such as influenza and pneumonia, while younger Oregonians may be more likely to die of a summertime-related injury, such as drowning, bicycle crashes or a boating accident, Modie explained.
    "This means that, to capture the true median age of death for a community, one would have to examine ages of death for that community for a full year over several years," he said.
    For 2008 through 2012, life expectancy at birth in Jackson County was 79.2 years. But, according to the Vital Statistics Unit of the Oregon Health Authority, the median age of death in Jackson County in 2012 was 81, two years above the state average.
    Michael, we appreciate your readership, but hope you'll take time out of your death calculations to pursue a more, shall we say, "lively" section of the Mail Tribune.
    Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.
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