Lack of education can be as deadly as smoking
People without a good education are at risk from a life time of poor diet, long manual working hours and worsening mental health
A lack of education can be as deadly as smoking, researchers have found, with the potential to knock 10 years off a person’s lifespan.
Researcher at the University of Colorado said leaving school without decent GCSEs or A levels left people at risk from a life time of poor diet, long manual working hours and worsening mental health.
The team examined population data in the US going back to 1925 to determine how education levels affected mortality over time.
"Our results suggest that policies and interventions that improve educational attainment could substantially improve survival in the U.S. population, especially given widening educational disparities," said study co-author Dr Patrick Krueger, assistant professor in the Department of Health & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver,
“Unless these trends change, the mortality attributable to low education will continue to increase in the future."
Around 6,000 pupils a year fail to achieve any qualifications while 47,000 gain fewer than five GCSEs. The researchers argued that thousands of lives could be saved by better education.
Krueger and colleagues examined data for those born in 1925, 1935 and 1945 to see how education levels impacted mortality over time.
They found that disparities in mortality across different education levels widened substantially over time.
For example, mortality rates fell modestly among those with high school degrees, the equivalent of British A-levels but much more rapidly among those with college degrees, our university degree.
"In public health policy, we often focus on changing health behaviors such as diet, smoking, and drinking," said study co-author Virginia Chang, associate professor of public health at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and College of Global Public Health.
"Education - which is a more fundamental, upstream driver of health behaviors and disparities - should also be a key element of U.S. health policy."
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.