Report: County has longer life expectancy than the nation

Progress has been made on many fronts but there are many health challenges left to tackle.

EVERETT — A new report by the Snohomish Health District gives new insight into how we live and how we die.

Snohomish County residents can expect to live past their 80th birthday, nearly two years longer than the national average. Women in the county on average are projected to live to 82 and nine months; men to 77 and 6 months.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Snohomish County, followed by heart disease. Nationally, it is heart disease followed by cancer. Even so, the county’s mortality rate from cancer has been dropping over the past decade.

The median household income in Snohomish County in 2017 was $78,020, much higher than the state ($66,174) and nation ($57,652). The county’s household income rate increased 6% from 2016 to 2017.

About one-third of students qualified for a free or reduced-cost lunch countywide based on family income, much less than the statewide average of 43%.

The work commute is taking longer with each year. At last count, Snohomish County workers could expect to spend nearly 32 minutes getting to their jobs, which is higher than the state and national average.

On the housing front, two-thirds of homes in the county are occupied by homeowners. The rate varies dramatically by ZIP code, falling as low as 32.6% in a part of south Everett and reaching as high as 93.9% in Maltby.

All of that information and much more was released Thursday in what’s called a Community Health Assessment, which is compiled every five years by the Snohomish Health District. A data task force, a group made up of local health experts and others, worked on the project over the course of about eight months last year.

The 92-page document is a starting point for more in-depth analysis of top health concerns. For instance, the new report points to suicide, opioid abuse and youth mental health issues as areas of concern as well as asthma-related hospitalizations, acute Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted diseases.

Concerns about vaping and e-cigarettes and an alarming increase in youth using vapor devices also were noted. The advisory group has deemed vaping an issue to be closely monitored, and possibly explored in a more detailed briefing in 2020.

At the same time, the county’s rates of homicide, cigarette smoking, melanoma and lung cancer deaths, impaired youth driving, fatal car crashes, and children living under the federal poverty level are faring better when compared to state and national rates.

Experts pored over local, state and federal data, digging into disease rates, leading causes of death, health risk behaviors and various hurdles to better health. The report breaks down many of those rates to pinpoint who might be in greatest need of help.

“That’s our goal: longer, healthier, happier lives,” said Heather Thomas, a health district spokeswoman.

The data show a sharp drop in the number of adults between 18 and 64 without health insurance between 2010 and 2017. During that time, the percent of county adults without medical insurance dipped from 19.1% to 7.6%. Most of the reduction is due to expanded health insurance availability under the federal Affordable Care Act.

At the same time, Snohomish County has a ratio of one primary care physician for every 1,969 residents and that ratio has been growing.

The increase may be due to the influx of new residents in the county outpacing the number of new primary care providers, the report noted. Snohomish County has nearly twice the ratio of residents to primary care providers as top performing areas in the country.

“It shows that there is a need to provide for more primary care providers in the county,” Thomas said.

The data also show Snohomish County had a higher rate of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016 than the state and national average.

Even so, the trend for new prostate cancer cases has been declining. The incidence rate 10 years ago was 147.7 per 100,000 males, compared to 105.3 per 100,000 now.

The rate of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the county is close to the state and national average, but the mortality rate is lower than both at 17.3 breast cancer deaths per 100,000.

Here are a few other findings:

Firearms: According to a 2018 study, 36.4% of households in Snohomish County owned at least one firearm. More than half (58.3%) of firearm owners in the county who keep their gun loaded do not have it securely locked up.

Opioids: Opioid-related deaths have decreased since 2012. The county’s rate in 2017 was 12 deaths per 100,000 people. This was higher than the state rate of 9.9 deaths per 100,000. The decrease in deaths likely can be attributed to the increased availability of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. Analyses show that over time, only overdose deaths involving non-methadone synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are increasing in Snohomish County.

Suicide: On average, one person in Snohomish County died by suicide every three days in 2018. A total of 129 county residents died by suicide, which is a rate of 15.5 deaths per 100,000 people. The rate was highest for males in two age groups: 65 and older and 18 to 24 years old.

Youth and suicide: According to the state’s 2018 Healthy Youth Survey, 22.5% of 10th-grade students in Snohomish County had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months. This number has been increasing steadily since 2012, when the rate was 18.6%.

Teen pregnancy: The pregnancy rate for those between 15 and 19 years old has been steadily declining over the last decade, going from 43.5 births per 1,000 teens in 2008 to less than half that (19.1 per 1,000) in 2017.

Texting while driving: In the 2018 Healthy Youth Survey, 37.8% of high school seniors admitted to texting while driving at least once in the past month, compared to 36.9% of adults in 2017. For adults, those between 35 and 44 years old had the highest rate of texting and driving at 54.7%.

Teen drinking and driving: The percentage of high school seniors who reported driving after consuming alcohol has decreased from 15.4% in 2006 to 5.5% in 2018.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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