Researchers from the New York University’s School of Culture, Education and Human Development found a statistically significant link between higher education levels and lower risk of death from all causes.
The study involved over 1 million Americans. Study authors argue that about 145,000 of study participants’ deaths could have been avoided if the ones who had no high-school degree had at least a General Equivalency Degree diploma.
Scientists also believe that nearly 110,000 deaths were completely preventable if study participants with some college education had at least a bachelor’s degree.
Nevertheless, study authors cautioned that their findings don’t show a link between lack education and high mortality risk. They just underscore an association between risk of death and level of education.
On the other hand, lack of education can generate a higher mortality risk indirectly. People with higher education usually have a higher income, are more knowledgeable over what a healthy life-style means and more psychologically and socially fit than their lesser educated peers.
A paper on the findings was published Wednesday in the journal Plos ONE. Study participants were monitored between 1986 and 2006 and the data collected on their risk of death, health hazards, and date of death were analyzed during the recent research.
One interesting find of the study was a lower risk of dying from all causes during the study period in those seeking higher education. For instance, participants who had a high school degree experienced a slightly lower mortality risk, while those who had a college diploma experienced a more significant mortality risk decrease.
Study authors also said that heart disease was the lead cause of death in those with poor education, while cancer came second on the list.
Prof. Virginia Chang, lead author of the study and public health researcher at the New York University’s College of Global Public Health and School of Medicine, explained that usually public health policies aim at educating people on changing their diets, smoking and drinking habits. Yet, the latest study shows that education should also be at the core of the US public health policy.
Prof Chang argued that education plays a key role in how people take care of themselves because it is an “upstream driver” of health behaviors and lifestyle choices.
Currently, over 10 percent of young U.S. adults aged 25 to 34 didn’t complete a bachelor’s degree, while 25 percent have college education but no high school degree.
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