New Research: In America Lifespan is Closely Related to Educational Attainment
New research published this week by two Princeton economists shows that in the U.S. an individual’s education is a strong predictor of how long they will live. And the correlation between lifespan and education seems to be increasing. The one-third of Americans with college degrees have been living increasing longer lives over the last three decades, while those without a degree have been dying younger since 2010.
The results of this study mirror earlier work on the subject. In 2019 Jennifer Montez of Syracuse University conducted research that compared female college graduates and those without a high school diploma. She found that "white women with a Bachelor’s degree or higher could expect to live nearly a decade (9.3 years) longer than their peers" who had not completed high school.
Among white men the difference was even greater; those that didn't complete high school lived an average of 67.5 years compared to 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.
The question, of course, is why there are such great differences in lifespan based on education.
The authors of the most recent study, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, attribute the growing trend to "deaths of despair" including rising rates of obesity, alcoholism, and drug addiction among the working class. They argue that with fewer career alternatives than college graduates, the less educated make bad lifestyle choices that reduce their longevity. And suicide rates have also increased among those without a college education.
There are probably numerous other factors involved. College graduates generally have better jobs that provide health insurance and better access to top notch healthcare facilities. Their additional education also informs their choices concerning nutrition and regular exercise. Statistically, college graduates tend to come from wealthier families that are able to provide better prenatal care and nutrition and live in less polluted environments. And a healthier childhood often means a longer, healthier life.
The answer probably is that all these factors are working together to increase the longevity gap between highly educated and less educated individuals and that means that addressing the issue will be complex. Making college more affordable for those that come from working class families would be a good place to start, however.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content