Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Research Shows Longevity Correlates To More Education

A student doing college physics. It turns out by attending college and getting a degree he will extend his life more than a high school grad or dropout.

In previous blog posts I've referenced Dr.Steve Mason's article 'The Myth of Higher Education' and specifically his emphasis that it was about much more than the bottom line and getting a good paying job. As he put it:

"the bottom line regarding a well -rounded education is that it has nothing to do with any kind of bottom line. Its value (non-monetary) is to be found in the quality it adds to one's life. It allows one to better appreciate music, art, history and literature. 

It contributes to a better understanding of language and culture, nature and philosophy. It expands rather than limits horizons and replaces faith and belief with reason and logic"

Now, we learn there are benefits above and beyond these  as new research produced in a University of Colorado (Denver) Study has found.  Basically, lack of education can be as bad for your health as smoking. The UCD researchers examined population data going back to 1925 to see how education levels affected mortality rates of more than a million people between ages 25 and 80. They found a direct link.

Education is a strong predictor of several contributing factors including higher income, healthier behaviors, and social and psychological well being.  In the U.S. more than 10 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 have no high school diploma and 28.5 percent have some college education but no bachelor's degree.

Researchers determined that 145, 243 deaths could have been prevented in 2010 if adults who hadn't completed high school had gone on to earn a diploma. That is comparable to the numbers of deaths avoided by smokers who quit , according to study co-author Patrick Krueger, assistant professor at the Dept. of Health and Behavioral Sciences at UCD.

The study also found that 110, 068 lives could have been saved if adults with some college, went on to complete their degrees.

Public health policy, according to Krueger, has focused on diet, smoking, drinking and exercise but perhaps it should also add learning.  As he notes, echoing Dr. Mason:

"Education is an important because it sets the stage for a person's life. It is an early intervention that helps define a person's career trajectory and income. Education allows people to improve their health in a lot of ways."

Dovetailing with the UCD study is another  by Esther Friedman of the RAND Corp. and Robert Mare of UCLA. They  found that parents of college grads live two years longer than parents whose kids didn't graduate from high school. That two-year bump in life expectancy for parents of the most-educated kids is surprisingly large — it amounts to about two-thirds of the longevity benefit of running every day.

Friedman and Mare's study wasn't small either. They examined more than 25,000 individuals tracked in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of Americans aged 51 and over, from 1992 to 2006. They found that the effect of children's education on parents' life expectancy was not just coincidence — it was robust even after controlling for the parents' own socioeconomic resources.

Moreover, individuals with more schooling are likely able to provide better care to their parents, "in part because of greater access to and more familiarity with doctors, health research in the media, and comfort with the Internet."

The beauty of both studies is that the results were independent of whether one got his college degree at an elite private school like Harvard, or at a state university. Which makes sense, because it isn't necessarily where one is educated but what he does with that education. Many Harvard grads have not made full use of their education to the extent one might expect, for example.

The other aspect, less noted, is how the college grads were energized by the need to keep learning on their own, to use their mental capital - as opposed to squandering it on aimless pursuits. This tendency alone would also confer an additional benefit to fend off Alzheimer's disease.

The bottom line, the real one, is that all the college debt may actually be worth it in the long run - though to be fair- we should make an effort to cut it down as far as possible.

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