25 February 2020

If you want to live longer, learn

The level of education turned out to be a key factor in life expectancy

Sergey Kolenov, Hi-tech+

A 30-year study covering residents of 4 American cities has convincingly shown that it is the level of education that is the key factor in life expectancy, not income or race. Mortality in this time period among people without higher education was 2.5 times higher than among those who received it.

In recent years, the average life expectancy in the United States has been declining, for the first time in several decades. Experts name a number of factors that may be responsible for this situation, from the unavailability of medical care to the spread of opioid addiction. However, it is not easy to calculate the contribution of each of them, according to the Yale University website.

Article by Roy et al. Education, Race/Ethnicity, and Causes of Premature Mortality Among Middle-Aged Adults in 4 US Urban Communities: Results From CARDIA, 1985-2017 published in the American Journal of Public Health – WM.

Specialists from Yale University and The University of Alabama at Birmingham made an attempt to find out how life expectancy is affected by the level of education and race. To do this, the researchers analyzed data on 5,114 residents of four US cities. They started collecting them about 30 years ago, when the project participants were a little over twenty. Since then, 395 of them have died.

The analysis showed that the mortality rate among black study participants was 9% compared to 6% among whites. The causes of death also differed. At an early age, black men were more likely to die because of homicide, and white men were more likely to die because of AIDS. However, with age, cardiovascular diseases and cancer became the main cause of death in both groups.

Although race influenced the mortality rate, the level of education turned out to be a much more reliable predictor of life expectancy. Among people without higher education, the mortality rate was 13%, while among those who graduated from college – 5%.

Moreover, when the data on skin color and education were combined, racial differences in mortality almost disappeared. For example, among participants without higher education, 13.5% of blacks and 13.2% of whites died. The level of education was the best predictor of life expectancy even after including factors such as income in the analysis.

The authors hope that their findings will stimulate the development of policies to ensure equal access to education. This will help reverse the alarming trend of reducing the life expectancy of Americans.

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