green grass and trees of cemetery (Photo: Shutterstock)

(Bloomberg) — Republican-leaning counties in the US experienced higher rates of premature death even before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a study found, and researchers fear politically polarized responses to the virus could widen the gap.

Democratic-voting counties had an overall 15% lower death rate than Republican counties in 2019, up from a 3% difference in 2001, researchers at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said Tuesday in a study. The research in the BMJ medical journal compared mortality data from US counties based on how they voted in historical presidential and gubernatorial elections.

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