Folks live longer in Elbe than anywhere else in Pierce County

Community is small but life expectancy is long: 86 years

Elbe’s claims to fame include being a hub of Mount Rainier Railroad‘s sightseeing excursions, home to a building on the National Register of Historic Places (Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church), and some of the lowest car insurance rates in the Seattle-Tacoma area.

Now the tiny community can put another feather in its cap as the community in Pierce County with the longest average lifespan for its residents – 86 years old, a distinction Elbe shares with Carbonado.

According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, there is a correlation between long life and living in small, close-knit communities. Elbe with less than 100 residents and Carbonado with barely 600 in the 2010 Census are that kind of place, which apparently explains why their denizens tend to live so long.

Based on data from a three-year-old study by the Health Department, “where you live in Pierce County can say a lot about your longevity,” said Dr. L-T Chen, the agency’s director of health.

The 2015 Health Equity Assessment “shows neighbors who live less than a mile apart can have up to an eight-year difference in life expectancy,” Chen said.

The lowest life expectancies of 75 years among Pierce County communities are in the Lakewood and Joint Base Lewis-McChord area, Tacoma’s Hilltop and Central neighborhoods , and Vaughn on the Key Peninsula.

The topic of long lives came up as a new state report emphasized the need to address underlying health factors in efforts to improve overall health among communities.

Not everyone in Pierce County has equitable opportunities for good health, health officials here said in response to the Office of Financial Management (OFM) report titled “Potentially Preventable Hospitalizations by Legislative District.” The report revealed that of Washington’s 49 state legislative districts, Pierce County’s 29th and 27th—which span from Tacoma to Lakewood—ranked highest for hospitalizations that people could have avoided if they had access to timely and affordable preventative and primary healthcare, such as regular doctor’s visits, prescription medication, and adult immunizations.

Chen said the report highlights the roadblocks to good health, which the Health Department contends starts where people live, learn, work and play. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy behaviors and medical care each account for 20 percent of good health, and 5 percent of what makes a person healthy comes from genetics. But social, economic and environmental factors are 55 percent of what makes people healthy. Those factors include neighborhood, income, education and ethnicity.

Chen said the Health Department "working on these issues with our healthcare and community partners,”

Elbe's low insurance: People who live in Elbe pay some of the lowest car insurance rates in the Seattle-Tacoma area, according to a study by The Zebra, a national car insurance comparison marketplace.

Other communities paying the least for car insurance are Stanwood, Darrington, Arlington, Index, Key Center (the only one in Pierce County besides Elbe), Sultan, Granite Falls, Maplewood, Vashon and Bellevue.

According to The Zebra, Washington’s average annual car insurance premium is $1,160, lower than 36 other states. The number comes from a national study using pricing data from the past six years and variables such as drivers’ age, gender and financial behaviors, and vehicles.


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