How Higher Education Could Prolong Your Life


Education is important for personal development and overall employability, but it could also play a crucial role in improving our quality of life. A recent study published by the scientific journal PLOS ONE has shown that people with a degree tend to outlive their less educated counterparts. Education can not only improve your finances, it is also linked to better health and a longer life expectancy.

The collaborative study was conducted by Professors and research cohorts from New York University, the University of North Colorado-Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado-Denver.  They discovered that across the board, people who had attained a higher level of education had a much lower average of mortality rates.

One particularly shocking revelation was that the annual mortality attributable to individuals having anything less than a baccalaureate degree is 37% among males, and 39% among females. Furthermore, an individual with a lower level education is more likely to suffer from cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Patrick Krueger, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, said that education is a more effective way to compare status to mortality than other measures of socio-economic status (such as income, wealth and occupation) because it remains the same over time.

He said: “Education has received renewed attention by researchers, because it endures throughout the life course and is amenable to policy intervention. Annual income can change a lot from year to year. Although most individuals support policies to improve schools and make education more accessible, changing the distribution of income and wealth is more controversial.”

This is not the first time that the correlation between Higher Education and mortality has been investigated. Back in 2010, a report from the National Center for Health Statistics found that those who had received a Bachelor’s degree or higher lived, on average, nine years longer than those who hadn’t.

Amy Bernstein, a health services researcher for the National Center for Health Statistics, said: “Highly educated people tend to have healthier behaviours, avoid unhealthy ones and have more access to medical care when they need it. All these factors are associated with better health.”

These findings were supported by the recent study, published on 8th July, 2015. A contributor to the study, Virginia Chang, associate professor of Public Health at New York University and of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine, said that education improves quality of life in a variety of ways, most of which are unconsidered and therefore hugely undervalued.

Chang stated that: “[Education] also affects your social network, your access to information [and] your ability to understand information. People with higher education feel like they have more agency and self-efficiency; they have more cognitive skills to manage any sort of complicated situation, to navigate the healthcare system; they have more social support.”

Both Krueger and Chang strongly believe that the results from their study should influence future education and public health policies. Chang, the study’s lead author, noted: “In public health policy, we often focus on changing health factors such as diet, smoking and drinking. Education- which is a more fundamental, upstream driver of health behaviours and disparities- should be a key element of US health policy.”

According to the researchers, the study’s outcome proves that employing policies to improve educational fulfilment could substantially improve mortality rates within the population of the United States.

Chang said: “Improving education would impact health widely, by resulting in healthier behaviours, higher incomes, stronger cognitive development and more vibrant social connections and psychosocial resources.”

Perhaps it is time for the Government, not just in the United States but across the entire world, to adjust their education policies, bearing in mind the wealth of health benefits when they advocate for education. 

Image via Shutterstock.

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