It’s widely accepted that people with more education tend to have better jobs, higher income, and higher social standing. But education may also save your life. A recent study performed by researchers at the University of Colorado, New York University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found significant correlations between education and premature deaths.
Significantly, they found that the difference in life expectancy between people with and without high school diplomas is about the same as the difference between former and current smokers. Looking at data on more than one million Americans collected between 1986 and 2006, they extrapolated to determine that 145,243 people who died in 2010 could have kept on living if they had a better education.
People with diplomas or GEDs tend to have a longer life expectancy than those who did not complete college, but the numbers look even better for people who attend at least some college, and better still for people with at least a bachelor’s degree. Deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer are the primary deaths included in the study. With more education, people tend to mitigate some of the factors that lead to these issues in the first place. More educated people are essentially healthier, although there are a number of factors that can go into that. Access to safer jobs and the better insurance that comes with higher levels of education should not be discounted, but a stronger ability to understand medical advice and avoid dangerous behavior in the first place is a significant factor as well.
The researchers stress that the health benefits of education should be brought up alongside its economic benefits. Education policy, if spun as benefiting the health of the nation, could get a much-needed boost of federal funding. Medical advances are helping people live longer, but it is the most educated people who are getting the most out of these advances.