Come to California if you want to live.
That’s Joe Mathews’ New Year’s suggestion for a new state slogan. “California is losing population for the first time since it became a state,” he writes. “The cause of the problem is not people leaving—in fact, our levels of departures, as percentage of population, are among the very lowest in the nation. Rather, the problem is that so few people are moving here. The biggest reason for that is well known: The cost of living in the Golden State is among America’s highest. But less well known is that our high costs buy you more living. Literally. On average, Californians live to 79, which beats the American average by more than two years, along with the average of all but three other states.”
Historically, California was middling in life expectancy. But during the 21st century, federal data has ranked it at or near the very top of the 50 states. Lately, only Hawai‘i residents, who reach an average 80.7 years, have lived longer. Our biggest metro areas are among the healthiest places in the country. The Bay Area ranks second in life expectancy nationally, and Los Angeles third.
Nor do you have to spend your whole life here to gain the extra time. Stanford and MIT researchers have found that moving to California even after age 65 can increase your life span by more than a year, or 5%.
Why do we live longer? There are many reasons. Wealthier, higher-income states with relatively high levels of education—like California—tend to rank highest in life expectancy. Money, after all, buys more access to better health care, and California’s rich people live near some of the world’s best hospitals and highest-quality health systems.
Healthy behavior helps. The percentage of us who smoke is lower than that of any state besides Utah. Our obesity rate is the fourth-lowest in the U.S. We have some of the country’s lowest rates of infant mortality and suicide.