Thursday, December 3, 2009

Does A College Education Increase Life Expectancy?

A college education can help increase one's income, but can it also increase one's life span?

While life expectancy in the U.S. has increased over the past several decades, not all demographic groups have benefited. According to a 2008 study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Harvard University, individuals with more than 12 years of education tend to live longer than those with only a high school education or less (Science Daily).

"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; for less educated, 75" (Science Daily).
Another study examined specific diseases linked to the disparity between life expectancy among both racial and educational groups. According to researchers at University of California-Los Angeles, "the top six contributors of mortality differences between education levels are all smoking-related diseases" (Science Blog).

"Deaths from diseases strongly linked to smoking -- lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder -- accounted for one-fifth of the life-expectancy gap between the groups with different levels of education. That fits with other research that shows people with less education are less likely to quit smoking" (White Coat Notes).

The UCLA study also shows that four diseases -- hypertension, HIV, homicide and diabetes -- are the greatest contributors to the life-expectancy gap between blacks and whites in the U.S.

Science Blog (
Science Daily 12 March 2008 (
White Coat Notes 11 March 2008 (

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