Education: Is There A Correlation Between Higher Education, Life Expectancy?

First Posted: Jul 12, 2015 04:18 PM EDT

New findings published in the journal PLOS ONE suggest that getting a college degree could actually reduce the risk of early mortality.

Researchers at the University of Colorado, New York University and the University of North Carolina discovered that going back to high school to finish degrees helped avert as many deaths as smokers who chucked the habit.

The study noted how those who attain higher education--namely a high school diploma or college degree--have a much lower mortality rate due to associated factors such as healthier behavior, enhanced cognitive performance, higher income and overall psychological well being.

During the study, researchers examined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s National Health Interview Survey and other information, looking at data from 1 million people between the ages of 1986 and 2006. Focusing on those born in 1925, 1935 and 1945, findings revealed that over 145,000 deaths could have potentially been postponed if many of the participants had just received their high school diploma or GED. What's even worse is that this number is actually comparable to the number of deaths that could be prevented if current smokers had the same mortality rate as former ones.

Furthermore, the study results showed that close to 110,000 deaths may have been avoided if adults with some college had gone on to attain their bachelor's degree.

"Broadly, life expectancy is increasing, but those with more education are reaping most of the benefits," said researchers Virginia Chang, associate professor of public health at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and College of Global Public Health. "In addition to education policy's obvious relevance for improving learning and economic opportunities, its benefits to health should also be thought of as a key rationale. The bottom line is paying attention to education has the potential to substantively reduce mortality."

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