Lack of Education Is As Deadly As Smoking

Lack of education is a huge problem, but many of us seem to underestimate just how big of a problem it really is. For many of us, having access to a good quality education is something that we frequently take for granted; it’s just seen as a regular part of our day to day lives. However, for some, education isn’t something that their entitled to by right; it’s a rare privilege. To illustrate just how important having an education is, researchers have conducted studies which indicate that a lack of education is as deadly as smoking.

Studies Unearth a Disturbing Truth

Researches from several prominent universities including NYU, the University of Colorado, and UNC Chapel Hill have recently come to some very disturbing conclusions. The results of their research point to the fact that the level of education that an individual has directly correlates to their risks of being diagnosed with diseases and even early death.

This study took a different approach to determining what factors influence an individual’s health. In most cases, health risks are determined by evaluating a person’s diet, fitness levels, family history, and their smoking and drinking tendencies. This is not an exhaustive list of factors considered, but these factors do make up an integral part of the variables examined.

A person’s education level however, is something which is rarely included in determining someone’s predisposition to diseases. Virginia Chang, the associate professor of public health at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and College of Global Public Health at NYU states that “Education — which is a more fundamental, upstream driver of health behaviors and disparities — should also be a key element of U.S. health policy.”

The Hypothesis of a Groundbreaking Study

The central hypothesis of this study was that in cases where an individual has a higher level of education, they would be less likely to be diagnosed with lifestyle related diseases, and as a result, less likely to die at an early age.

This is because these individuals would benefit from the following factors, which are a direct result of their level of education:

  • Higher social status
  • Higher income
  • Healthier lifestyles and habits
  • The ability to make informed choices and decisions
  • Access to higher quality health care

What the Study Entailed

In order to prove their hypothesis, researchers carried out a study to analyze the lives of individuals who were born in the years 1925, 1935, and 1945. For each individual that was studied, the following information was noted:

  • The age at which they died
  • The cause of death
  • And their level of education

Based on this information, people were divided into three groups:

  1. Those who had not graduate high school
  2. Those who had some level of college education
  3. Those who had completed college with a bachelor’s degree

The Results

What researchers found literally blew them away. The results from the study illustrated a strong correlation between an individual’s level of education and how long they lived. Some of their findings may seem like conjecture, but the connection between education levels and mortality rates was so strong that it could be considered casual.

Some of the findings included:

  • Roughly 145,243 people could have lived longer had they finished high school earlier in their lives
  • 110,068 individuals could have lived better quality lives had they not dropped out of college
  • There was a huge difference in the death rates of individuals who didn’t complete high school and those who had graduated college
  • Those individuals who didn’t complete high school and those who did but decided not to pursue further education showed similar mortality rates

What These Findings Mean

It is important to note that these findings don’t suggest that just having a high school or college education by itself will result in better and loner lives. It merely points to the fact that individuals with a certain level of education are in positions to make better, more informed choices which could positively impact their lives.

The study also uncovered that the individuals’ cause of death was also related to their education levels. This applied particularly to certain cardiovascular diseases, which were found to affect those with lesser education levels more often than those with higher education levels.  

This particular study was carried out as part of the Healthy People 2020 initiative. The aim of the initiative is to decrease human mortality rates by illustrating how important a good quality education is, and increasing access to education. It also aims to provide assistance to those individuals who are indulging in dangerous lifestyle choices by helping them see how these choices could adversely affect their lives. Incentives are also provided so that people continue on with their education.


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