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Want to live longer? Stay in school!
Published on: Tuesday, February 06, 2024
By: ETX Daily Up, FMT
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Every year spent in education reduces mortality by 2%, reveals a study published in The Lancet Public Health. (Envato Elements pic)
Many studies have demonstrated that higher levels of education are associated with longer life expectancy, but none has been able to determine the extent to which education can reduce mortality.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have now investigated this question, and their findings suggest that every year spent in school or university has a significant influence on life expectancy.

“Education is important in its own right, and being able to quantify the magnitude of this benefit is a significant development,” said Dr Terje Andreas Eikemo, study co-author and head of the Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research at the university.

The researchers drew on data from no fewer than 59 countries, including the United States, France, India, Australia and the United Kingdom, with over 10,000 data points collected from more than 600 published papers.

The scientists point out, however, that most of the data comes from high-income countries – a limitation that highlights the need for further research in low- and middle-income countries.

Published in The Lancet Public Health, their findings highlight the fact that each additional year in education is associated with a 2% lower mortality risk. This corresponds with an average 13% lower risk of death for those who complete primary school (around six years of schooling, depending on the region), compared with those who did not attend school.

Graduation from secondary school (about 12 years of education) was associated with a 24.5% reduction in mortality, and graduation from higher education (18 years of schooling) with a 34% reduction in the risk of death.

“We need to increase social investments to enable access to better and more education around the globe to stop the persistent inequalities that are costing lives,” said study co-author Mirza Balaj.

“More education leads to better employment and higher income, better access to healthcare, and helps us take care of our own health. Highly educated people also tend to develop a larger set of social and psychological resources that contribute to their health and the length of their lives.”

‘As bad as smoking’

Even more surprisingly, the researchers suggest that the life-expectancy benefits of 18 years of schooling could be similar to those associated with an ideal consumption of vegetables.

The study further reveals that not going to school could be as bad for health as drinking five or more glasses of alcohol a day, or smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years.

Despite the limitations of this study, the scientists report they found “no significant difference in the effects of education between countries that have reached different stages of development”.

“Closing the education gap means closing the mortality gap, and we need to interrupt the cycle of poverty and preventable deaths with the help of international commitment,” co-lead author Claire Henson noted.

“In order to reduce inequalities in mortality, it’s important to invest in areas that promote people’s opportunities to get an education. This can have a positive effect on population health in all countries.”





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