‘Really disturbing’: Boston residents living two miles apart have 23-year life expectancy gap, study reveals

Boston residents living just two miles apart have a 23-year life expectancy gap, according to a new study.

Inhabitants of the affluent Back Bay inner city neighbourhood live to nearly 92 on average, while those living in Roxbury have an average life expectancy of under 69 years, the Boston Health Commission study found.

The massive disparity in life spans was “really disturbing”, Boston Public Health Commission executive director Dr Bisola Ojikutu told WBUR.

“So much work has gone into improving life expectancy for individuals. It feels discouraging,” Ms Ojikutu said.

The demographics of the two neighbourhoods also showed stark differences in wealth, education, home ownership levels and race, according to US Census data.

The medium household income in Back Bay is $141,000, compared to just over $42,000 in Roxbury, WBUR reported.

There are more than double the number of homeowners in Back Bay, compared to Roxbury. And nine in 10 Roxbury residents have a college degree, compared to just four in 10 in Roxbury.

The public health study, conducted using Census data, found the average life expectancy for Bostonians fell by 2.4 years due to Covid-19.

Boston with the Back Bay skyline in the background. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Boston with the Back Bay skyline in the background. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The pandemic had “exacerbated racial and ethnic health inequities” it found, with Latino residents seeing their life expectancy decline by four years, and Black and Asian residents by three years. White residents experienced a one-year decline.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement her administration had a “lot of work to do” to address health gaps in the city.

Public health researchers say the gap in life expectancy in the two Boston neighborhoods has decreased since 2007, when it stood at 33 years.

According to December data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy rates across the United States fell to 76.4 in 2021, the lowest it’s been for nearly two decades.

Back Bay, on the south bank of the Charles River, is home to several of Boston’s most significant cultural and historical buildings, including the Trinity Church, Boston Public Library and the John Hancock Tower, the city’s tallest skyscraper.

Roxbury, two miles south, has several famous attractions including the Boston Children’s Museum and the Franklin Park Zoo.