​Educational inequality as destructive for health as smoking – study

(Reuters / Luke MacGregor)
An educational deficit can be as destructive for human health as smoking and could reduce a person’s lifespan by ten years, new research suggests.

Conducted by researchers based at the University of Colorado, the report said young people who leave school without good GSCE or A Levels results risk a life plagued by poor nutrition, declining mental health and long working hours. It was published in multi-disciplinary open access journal PLOS ONE.

The research team examined data sets from America dating back as far as 1925 to decipher the relationship between education and mortality. However, their findings can be applied more generally to any state. Assistant professor at the University of Colorado Patrick Kruger said the research uncovers a clear link between educational attainment and human health.

Krueger, who specializes in Health & Behavioral Sciences and co-authored the report, said its results indicate social policies and interventions to improve access to education could markedly improve “survival in the US population.”

He further stated the closing of “educational disparities” across society is central to this goal.

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The assistant professor argued unless educational inequalities across society are addressed “the mortality attributable to low education will continue to increase in the future.”

Roughly 6,000 pupils each year leave school without any qualifications whatsoever in Britain, according to government statistics. An additional 47,000 come out with less than five GCSEs.

Kruger and his colleague also examined data for people who were born in 1935 and 1945 to discern how education levels influenced mortality over generations.

It found disparities in mortality across varying education levels fluctuated considerably.

Mortality rates declined modestly among those with high school degrees, the equivalent of British A-levels.

However, the lifespan of those with college or university degrees were found to increase considerably.

The study concluded improved education could better the lives of thousands of people.