Better educated live longer

March 11th, 2008 - 2:43 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 11 (IANS) Life expectancy has gone up over the past few decades, but recent data shows that not everyone has benefited equally. Latest findings from Harvard Medical School and Harvard University demonstrate that individuals with more than 12 years of education have significantly longer life expectancy than those who never went beyond high school.

“We like to think that as we as a country get healthier, everyone benefits,” says David Cutler, of Harvard University and co-author of the study. “Here we’ve found that you can have a rising tide that only lifts half the boats - and the ones lifted are the ones doing better to begin with.”

The research, conducted by Cutler and Ellen Meara, being published in March/April issue of Health Affairs, said that over the years, much attention has been paid to mortality rates based on socio-economic status, but less attention has been paid to recent trends in life expectancy, mortality, and education level.

To understand recent mortality trends, Meara and Cutler combined death certificate data with census population estimates and data from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study.

Restricting analyses to whites and non-Hispanic blacks, the team created two separate data sets, one covering 1981-1988, and the other 1990-2000.

In both data sets, life expectancy rose for individuals who had more than 12 years of education. For those with 12 years or less, it reached a plateau.

For example, comparing the 1980s to the 1990s, better educated individuals experienced nearly a year and a half of increased life expectancy, while the less educated experienced only half a year. For 1990-2000, life expectancy rose an additional 1.6 years for better educated, while remaining fixed for the less educated.

In addition, when the data was broken down by gender, the researchers found that women fared worse than men. Less educated women, regardless of race, experienced a slight decline in life expectancy at age 25.

Overall in the groups studied, as of 2000, better educated at age 25 could expect to live to age 82; the less educated, 75.

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