Do you want to live longer? Get educated! This injunction may seem surprising, but it is nevertheless the observation established by researchers who are interested in the impact of education on life expectancy. Their work reveals that each additional year spent at school could significantly reduce mortality, of the order of 2%.
Many studies have sought to demonstrate that higher levels of education are associated with longer life expectancy, but none have succeeded in determining the extent to which education can reduce mortality. A team of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked into the question, suggesting at the end of their work that each year spent at school had an influence on life expectancy, and this in a way significant.
“Education is important in its own right, if only for its health benefits, but being able to now quantify the extent of these benefits is a significant step forward“, explains Dr. Terje Andreas Eikemo, co-author and director of the Center for Global Health Inequalities Research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in a statement.
A reduction in mortality of 24.5% with the baccalaureate
The researchers based themselves on data from no less than 59 countries, including the United States, Europe, India, Australia, and the United Kingdom, with more than 10,000 observations collected at based on more than 600 published articles. Although this work is based on a vast panel of data, the scientists point out that most of it comes from high-income countries – which constitutes a limitation and already encourages the authors to continue their research in high-income countries. low or middle income.
Published in The Lancet Public Health, their findings emphasize that each additional year of education is associated with a 2% lower mortality risk. They specify that this corresponds to a reduction in the risk of death of 13% on average for those who finish primary school (around six years of school depending on the region) compared to those who are not. didn’t go to school. Obtaining a secondary school diploma (approximately 12 years) was associated with a reduction in mortality of 24.5% and obtaining a higher education diploma (master’s level) with a reduction in the risk of death of around 34%.
“We must increase social investments to enable access to better quality education around the world to end persistent inequalities that cost lives. More education leads to better employment and higher incomes, better access to health care and helps us take care of our own health. People with higher levels of education also tend to develop a broader set of social and psychological resources that contribute to their health and longevity.“, underlines Mirza Balaj, co-author of this work.
As harmful as cigarettes
Even more surprising, researchers suggest that the benefits on life expectancy of 18 years of education would be similar to those linked to ideal vegetable consumption. The study also found that not going to school would be as bad as drinking five or more glasses of alcohol a day or smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day for ten years. Despite the limitations of this study, particularly linked to the lesser inclusion of low-income countries, the scientists indicate that they have highlighted “no significant difference” in the benefits observed “between countries having reached different stages of development”.
“Closing the education gap means closing the mortality gap, and we must interrupt the cycle of poverty and preventable deaths with the help of international commitment. To reduce mortality inequalities, it is important to invest in areas that promote opportunities for access to education. This can have a positive effect on the health of the population in all countries“, concludes Claire Henson, researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who also participated in this research.