A new study says that a lack of formal education is just as damaging and deadly to your body as smoking is. Researchers at the University of Colorado recently detailed the mortality similarities between smoking tobacco and a lack of education, and the results are pretty stunning.
According to the researchers, over 145,000 deaths in 2010 could have been prevented if adults who didn’t earn a high-school diploma or GED would have. That number is almost equal to the number of deaths that could have been prevented in 2010 if all current smokers had the mortality rates of people who once had smoked but then stopped.
Working off of population records between 1925 and 2010, the researchers at the University of Colorado assessed how education – or the absence of it – contributed to the deaths of all persons between the ages of 25 and 85.
The study additionally found that mortality continued to decrease amongst those who attended college and managed to get a degree.
The results of the study were published in the journal, PLOS ONE by the researchers at Colorado alongside researchers from the University of North Carolina and New York University. Patrick Krueger, assistant professor at the University of Colorado’s Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences stated that over 110,000 deaths could have been prevented in 2010 if high-school graduates had gone on to get a bachelor’s degree.
“Education is 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. 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.”
Currently, over 10 percent of the American adults between the ages of 25 and 34 do not possess a high-school diploma. Over 25 percent of American adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have some college experience but did not graduate with a degree. According to this study, this group of Americans may as well be smoking because their life expectancy is just as short as a smoker’s.
Dr. Virginia Chang, an associate professor at NYU’s School of Medicine, says that the country as a whole needs to focus just as much on education as smoking cessation, exercise and other health initiatives.
“Education, which is a more fundamental, upstream driver of health behaviors and disparities, should also be a key element of U.S. health policy.”
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