- Continuing one’s education beyond high school not only gives students a better shot at a well-paying job — it can also reduce the risk of early death, according to a new study appearing in the American Journal of Public Health.
- As part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which followed a cohort of 5,114 black and white men and women for 29 years, researchers led by Dr. Brita Roy of the Yale School of Medicine find each level of education attained is associated with 1.37 fewer “years of potential life lost.”
- The authors also note educational disparities grew wider between 1990 and 2000 and persisted or worsened during the 2000s. They suggest policymakers adopt city-level policies focused on reducing inequalities, such as high-quality early-childhood education.
The study’s participants were recruited in the mid-1980s from four sites across the country — Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland, California. Seven follow-up examinations were conducted. In addition to collecting health information, the researchers asked questions about whether the participants had trouble paying for basic needs.
While age-adjusted mortality rates were higher for black men and women than their white counterparts, the researchers found educational level, not race, was associated with earlier death. “Compared with living participants, deceased participants were more often men and black, had lower educational attainment, and more often reported having a hard or very hard time paying for basic needs,” they wrote.
The findings, according to the study, support the body of research showing low education is associated with risk factors that can lead to premature death, such as smoking and obesity, and risk factors for HIV/AIDS. The researchers also recommend that prevention and intervention programs address both social and health-related risks in order to have “a meaningful impact.”