A recent multi-university study published in the latest issue of PLoS ONE suggests that there is a link between education and longevity. And the research supporting this study is truly impressive, though the title may not seem that convincing.
The team of researchers from the New York University, the University of Colorado and the University of North Carolina investigated over 1 million Americans and discovered that 145,000 deaths in 2010 alone could have been prevented had the adults in question graduated high school or earned a GED.
In fact, the takeaway message of the study is that people who go back to earn their high school degree could avert as many deaths as every smoker would if quitting.
The lower mortality rates among higher-educated adults is explained by a multitude of factors. High education is correlated with a higher social and income status, as well as psychological well-being, healthier lifestyle choices and behaviors as well as enhanced cognitive development.
At present, more than 10 percent of US adults aged 25 to 34 lack a high school degree. Moreover, 25 percent don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Lead author of the study, Virginia Chang, explains that preventive medicine shouldn’t just target health behaviors such as drinking, smoking and diet-related issues.
“Education — which is a more fundamental, upstream driver of health behaviors and disparities — should also be a key element of U.S. health policy,” she explains.
Chang explains that the researchers analyzed data from a total of one million adults collected between 1986 and 2006 and corroborated that data with certain birth years (1925, 1935, and 1945) in order to assess whether certain deaths could have been postponed.
One notable observation of the study was that disparities in mortality across differing education levels widened over time. For instance, mortality rates decreased modestly among US adults who had earned their high-school degrees. However in the case of adults who had earned college degrees, mortality rates fell significantly more rapidly.
Other studies support the idea that higher levels of education are strong predictors of longevity. So with a change in these trends, hopefully we will be able to change the mortality rates attributable to low education.
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