Monday, April 9, 2012

Longer life span linked to more education

Yet one more reason to encourage your children to stay in school, and to go to college, and to get advanced degrees.

A new study from the University of Wisconsin shows that the more educated one is, the longer one may live.

Reports Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times,

Americans are living longer, but the gains in life span are accruing disproportionately among the better educated, according to a new report by researchers from the University of Wisconsin.

Researchers have long known of the correlation between education and length of life, but the report provides a detailed picture of what that link looks like across the country’s more than 3,000 counties.

The study, which was financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, uses government data to rank each American county by health indicators like obesity, smoking, drinking, physical inactivity and premature death. It even considers factors like the density of fast-food restaurants in a county.

Its findings show that the link between college education and longevity has grown stronger over time. Premature death rates differed sharply across counties, and a lack of college education accounted for about 35 percent of that variation from 2006 to 2008, the most recent years available, said Bridget Booske Catlin, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, who directed the study. That was up from 30 percent over an equivalent period seven years earlier.

The study defines premature deaths as those that occur before age 75 and are often preventable.

The findings offered fresh evidence that Americans’ fortunes are diverging by education level. Education has emerged as an important predictor of good health and future earnings, but its unequal distribution among towns and cities has led to an increasingly uneven geography of well-being in the country.

According to the findings, when average post-secondary education levels increased by one year, there was a 16 percent decline in years of life lost before age 75, Ms. Catlin said.

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