Higher Education Levels Decrease Risk of Mortality, Finds New Study


A recent study published in The Lancet Public Health reveals that education plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of mortality across various demographics, locations, and social backgrounds. While it has long been known that individuals with higher levels of education tend to live longer lives, the extent of this impact has not been quantified until now. The study found that with each additional year of education, the risk of death decreases by 2%. This translates to a 13% lower risk of death for those who completed six years of primary education, a 25% lower risk for secondary school graduates, and a 34% lower risk for individuals with 18 years of education.

The researchers compared the health outcomes associated with education to other risk factors such as diet, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Surprisingly, they found that the benefits of education were comparable to those of leading a healthy lifestyle. For instance, the advantages of 18 years of education are akin to consuming the recommended amount of vegetables as opposed to not consuming any vegetables at all. Conversely, not attending school has a similar negative impact on health as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks per day or smoking ten cigarettes daily for a decade.

Dr. Terje Andreas Eikemo, co-author and head of the Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, emphasized that education holds intrinsic value beyond its impact on health. Nevertheless, being able to quantify the magnitude of this benefit marks a significant development. The study further revealed that individuals of all age groups benefit from the protective effects of education. Even individuals aged 50 and 70 experience the positive impact of education on their health and longevity. Moreover, the effects of education remain consistent across countries at different levels of development. This implies that more years of education are equally effective in both wealthy and impoverished nations.

In light of these findings, the researchers highlight the importance of increasing social investments to improve global access to quality education. Doing so will be instrumental in addressing persistent inequalities that cost lives. Mirza Balaj, co-lead author and postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Sociology and Political Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, emphasized that education leads to better job prospects, higher incomes, improved access to healthcare, and enhanced personal health awareness. Furthermore, highly educated individuals tend to possess a broader range of social and psychological resources that contribute to their overall well-being and lifespan.

Claire Henson, co-lead author and researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, asserts that closing the education gap is essential in narrowing the mortality gap. To accomplish this, international commitment is crucial in breaking the cycle of poverty and preventable deaths. Investing in areas that promote educational opportunities will have a positive impact on population health in all countries.

The study analyzed data from 59 countries, incorporating over 10,000 data points from more than 600 published articles. While most of the studies reviewed were conducted in high-income settings, the researchers stress the need for more research in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan and North Africa where data is scarce.

Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, co-author and professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), urges a focus on regions of the world where access to education is limited and research on education’s impact as a determinant of health is lacking. By addressing these gaps, we can work towards reducing inequalities in mortality and ultimately improve population health worldwide.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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