Americans are dying younger, not living longer. But even as itfalls, the shortening life expectancy in this country requiresworkers to save—and save a lot—toward retirement.

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Related: What to live longer inretirement?

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A depressing thought, but it does tend to highlight the need toestimate how much money a person will need in retirement so thatthey manage to save enough and to replace enough income to meettheir needs as they age.

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And since poorer health generally contributes to a shorter lifeexpectancy, that points toward a need to save more, rather thanless—because if there’s one fear foremost in Americans’ minds thesedays, it’s how much they’ll end up paying for health care, both nowand later.

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What with the current battle in Congress to change how we payfor our health care, not only might changes to (or repeal of) theAffordable Care Act hit lower-income and middle-class people hardwhen it comes to being priced out of the market altogether, thosechanges might make them solely responsible for paying their ownmedical bills and forking out big bucks needs to a nursing homethat were formerly intended to pay for retirement instead.

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Online insurance broker Netquote has put together data from theHealth Inequality Project, the World Bank and the Kaiser FamilyFoundation that looks at how life expectancy in the U.S. is changing, basedon data for age, gender, race, income and residence.

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And it’s not a pretty picture. People in Germany, Switzerland,and Japan all have longer average lifespans: nearly 81 years,almost 83 years, and 85 years, respectively.

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The U.S., you might be interested to know, finishes a dismal42nd in the world, according to theCIA, with a life expectancy that falls short of 80 years old.Considering what we spend on health care and wellness in thiscountry, that’s pitiful.

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But it’s still a lot of years, which means not just the questionof health care to be paid for as we age but also the need to copewith inflation’s toll on savings.

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Netquote has provided a tool to estimate your own lifeexpectancy, based on gender, race, income level and home town (onlytowns of 25,000 or more are included). And seeing that estimatecould drive home the need to save for many years of retirement,with or without medical care.

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It could also drive home the factors that contribute to ashorter lifespan.

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Disturbingly, while some can be changed, others can’t—unlessthings change not just in Washington but all over the country.

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Here are some of the factors that are weighing on the U.S.lifespan:

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Women still live longer than men. (Photo: Getty)

4. DNA

Women are still living longer than men, and the gap isn’tgetting any smaller.

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Women still outlive men, and according to a BBC report, it could just be a matter of DNA: “Thisremarkably consistent survival advantage of women compared with menin early life, in late life, and in total life is seen in everycountry in every year for which reliable birth and death recordsexist. There may be no more robust pattern in human biology.”

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It can’t be blamed on occupation, since women are increasinglydoing the same work and taking on the same risks as men, the reportsays.

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It can’t be blamed on smoking, drinking and overeating, althoughthat does help to explain the size of the gap in certaingeographical regions—but even among apes, the report says, thefemales consistently outlive the males.

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It could have something to do with women’s extra X chromosome orsmaller bodies, according to other theories.

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But here’s a scary thought: some research theorizes it could bedue to testosterone. A Korean study of eunuchs in the19th century found that they lived an average of 10years longer than other men—even kings—and were 130 times morelikely to celebrate their hundredth birthday than the averageKorean man at the time.

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In addition, the female hormone estrogen acts as an antioxidant,with animal studies indicating that females lacking estrogen failto live as long as females that are still able to rely on estrogento repair against molecular damage.

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There is another factor, though. Read on to learn what itis.

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Related: Women's retirement statusiffy

Race and ethnicity also determine how long one lives in America. (Photo: AP)

3. Race and ethnicity

Sadly, race and ethnicity are a major factor in how longAmericans live. But interestingly, it’s not Caucasians who have thelongest lifespans; that honor belongs to Asian-Americans, who liveto be an average of 87.

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They’re followed by Hispanics, at 83; Caucasians, at 79; NativeAmericans, at 77; and African-Americans, at 75.

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According to NetQuote, research “has attributed Asian-Americans’extended life spans to decreased rates ofmorbidity due to heart disease and cancer, as well as reducedoccurrences of unintentional injury, homicide and suicide.”

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African-Americans, on the other hand, have seen their lifeexpectancy rise over the last several years, but they“continue to suffer from higher rates of heart disease and cancer,as well as historical inadequacies in medical care due todiscrimination and segregation. Violence and homicide have alsocontributed to higher rates of morbidity among African-Americans,though these occurrences have also shrunk over the last fewdecades.”

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Related: Women, minorities, and millennials faceown challenges in retirement saving

Lifespans for African Americans increase in Minnesota. (Photo: AP)

2. Geography

Geographically, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Connecticut offeredAfrican-Americans the longest average life expectancies; in thosestates, it averaged between more than 77 years and 79 years.

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That’s approximately 3–5 years higher than the national averagefor all African-Americans.

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Asian-Americans, meanwhile, lived to an average of more than 89years in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, while Hispanicsgot longer expected lifespans in Virginia (from 83 years to morethan 88 years), Minnesota and Massachusetts.

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Caucasians lived above the national average of 79 years made itto more than 84 in Washington, D.C., and to 81 years in Minnesotaand Connecticut.

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And remember the longevity gap between men and women? Well, howmuch longer women live than men also depends on where theylive.

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According to Netquote’s data, Alabama, Mississippi, SouthCarolina, Georgia and Arkansas had the widest gap in the countrybetween men’s and women’s average life expectancies. The largestgap, to be found in Alabama, is nearly 6 percent—a heftydifference.

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Why might this be the case? It could be due to a couple offactors: not only does Alabama have the second highest adultobesity rate in the country, it’s ranked 46th for poverty.

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On the other side of the equation, states where the gap betweenmen and women is smallest are Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado andSouth Dakota: just under 4 percent.

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Related: 10 states gaining retireesIncome level affects how long a person will live in the U.S. (Photo:Bigstock)

1. Money

Income level has a great deal to do with how long people live,and as people get poorer, their life expectancy suffers. Studiesshow that extreme poverty here within the U.S. can equate to lifeexpectancies similar to those in much poorer countries, such asSudan or Pakistan.

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Shocked? You shouldn’t be. People with more money have access tobetter health care, while people without either can’t afford careat all or fail to follow through on such factors as medication orongoing treatment.

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They also don’t go for regular checkups or recommendedtests.

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As household income levels increase, the data show that averagelife expectancy rises with it—so much so that there can be as muchas a 12-year gap between the richest and poorest U.S. citizens.

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Those in the top percentile can live to be older than 87, whilethose at the bottom will be lucky to make it out of their77th year.

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And it’s not just health care, of course. More money meansaccess to a better diet, better quality food, a likely fondness forexercise (whether it’s affording a gym membership or going on along-range bicycle tour) and the probability of less smoking anddrinking.

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Oh, and there’s less stress if you’re not worried about how topay the next bill or fend off foreclosure or repossession.

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As NetQuote says, “These elements combined can contribute to ahigher life expectancy overall.

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Related: How the other 99 percentlives

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