Researchers have discovered evidence that not going to college can eat away a few years of your life. According to a recent study, low education can be associated with a higher risk of death.
Such a discovery is particularly alarming since low levels of education are rather common among the larger population – around 10 percent of American adults aged 25 to 34 haven’t earned a high school degree, and there’s roughly a quarter of them with some college, but not a bachelor’s degree.
Researcher Virginia Chang explained that education should also be on the list of important elements that need improvement in U.S. public health policy. The general focus lies with improving health behaviors – drinking, eating and smoking – but there is a dire need of including education on the list, even though it is part of the upstream side of health behaviors.
It is not that surprising that higher level of education is connected to longevity, as it was shown in several previous studies. More factors make up this prediction, such as being able to sustain healthier behaviors due to higher income and social status; and benefitting from psychological and social wellbeing also helps.
For the current study, researchers analyzed data on more than a million people, data collected from 1986 to 2006. Their target was to find a connection between low levels of education and general number of deaths.
Results showed that more than 145,000 people who died in 2010 could have been saved if adults who did not have a high school diploma would have completed their high school or earned a GED.
For comparison, the same number of deaths could be avoided if all current smokers had the same death rates as smokers who quit the habit. Moreover, researchers estimate that more than 110,000 people could have been saved if they managed to complete their bachelor’s degree.
Lead author Patrick Krueger, assistant professor in the Department of Health & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver, explained that results suggest survival of the American population would greatly benefit from policies that would promote educational achievement.
Unless things start to change, mortality rates for which low education levels are responsible will just keep going up. Even though life expectancy is generally on the rise, benefits usually come to those with more education.
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