“I had a lovers quarrel with the world”
— epitaph of poet Robert Frost
Sonoma, your days are numbered.
That, of course, is the bad news. The good news, according to a recently released study by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, is that Sonoma’s days number about 30,000. Or, rather, that’s 82.2 years -- the average life expectancy of a Sonoma Valley resident, as reported in the county’s Summary Measures of Health study.
That puts the average Sonoman in such esteemed company as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Leo Tolstoy, Ansel Adams and Neil Armstrong, who all died at the ripe age of 82. Of course, so did Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung and Charles Manson. In the recipe book for a long life, there are no just desserts.
Despite its sunny title, the study, the first of its kind in the county, is less a blithe measure of health than a somber tally of death.
Because, while the study opens its report with a brief discussion of county life expectancy, it spends a considerable portion of its time thereafter ruminating upon leading causes of death. In fact, much of the study was based on analysis of death certificates from county residents between the years 2013 to 2015. In other words, if you weren’t infirmed in those years, you weren’t part of the study. Heck, if you weren’t entombed during those years, you weren’t part of the study.
At 82, Sonoma Valley’s life expectancy is par for both the county and state overall. Which, at three years higher than the national average, is nothing to sneeze at.
Still, Sonoma Valley’s 40,000 residents might want to find out what they’re putting in the water up in Healdsburg — fluoride, right? – where the LE is a county leading 84.9, followed by Sebastopol and Windsor at 83.3 and 83.1, respectively. On the lower end, Petaluma is a hair shy of the county average with an 81.8 LE, while Santa Rosa, Cloverdale, Geyserville and Rohnert Park check in at 80 years and change. The Russian River area, meanwhile, is a concerning 78.3 years. As an out-of-state comparable, Missouri is 78.9.
Overall, women live about four years longer than men in Sonoma County, where the population in 2014 was about 500,000 and the average age 41.
The leading causes of death in the county, as well as Sonoma Valley itself, are, in order, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease.
The Valley fell within the middle range, countywise, in most of those cause-of-death categories. But it led the field in demises by stroke, and was second behind Petaluma in Alzheimer’s deaths.
Sonoma Valley was second to Healdsburg in lowest number of premature deaths — in other words, a measurement of years of life lost before age 75. That’s a good thing.
What isn’t, is its stereotypically wine-country top spot in premature deaths due to chronic liver disease, leading the county with 6.3 percent. Valley residents fell mid-range in an assortment of other types of premature deaths, such as suicide (5.2 percent) and unintentional injury (14.4 percent). Unintentional injuries include drug overdoses, vehicle collisions and falls; Cloverdale and Geyserville, at nearly 25 percent, were the only communities to have more than 20 percent of their premature deaths be from unintentional injury.