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LEXINGTON, Ky. - New data shows that life expectancy varies from county to county across Kentucky, sometimes by as much as eight years, with the shortest lives occurring in the eastern third of the state.

A map showing life expectancies of each county was released Monday at the Shaping Our Appalachian Region summit in Pikeville, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. The map was created by Derek Chapman, associate director of research at Virginia Commonwealth University's Center on Society and Health.

The map showed life expectancy by county ranging from 70 to 79 years, with the shortest life spans occurring in the southeastern part of Kentucky. The life expectancy at birth in Perry, Breathitt and Wolfe counties is 70 years, with Floyd, Harlan and Owsley at 71.

Among northeastern Kentucky counties, life expectancies were 75 years for both Boyd and Greenup counties, 74 for Carter County and 73 for Lawrence County.

Many of the counties where the life expectancy is longer are between Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky. There, people can expect to live between 76 and 79 years.

"It's a pretty stark regional difference," Chapman said.

SOAR was established to help boost the economy of Appalachian Kentucky, but its mission also includes improving the quality of life. That includes a focus on improving health. One goal of mapping life expectancy in the state is to raise awareness of how a variety of factors affect health, said VCU and SOAR in a statement.

Reasons for the differences include education levels, poverty level, opportunities to be physically active and access to health care.

While the causes of death, like heart disease, cancers and strokes, are generally the same in most places, they take root earlier in places that face challenges correlated with health problems, Chapman said.

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