Low education levels just as hazardous to your health as smoking, study reveals

Low education levels just as hazardous to your health as smoking, study reveals

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DENVER — Here’s one more reason to take education seriously: Your life and health may depend on it.

A new study out of the University of Colorado reveals a lack of good education could be as hazardous to your health as smoking.

Researchers looked over census data from 1925 to 2010 to see what kind of an impact education might have on one’s health and mortality. They examined more than a million people between the ages of 25 and 85, and found a direct link between lifespan and education.

Study authors predicted that more than 145,000 deaths could have been prevented back in 2010 if adults without a high school diploma had actually earned one, according to the research, which was published this month in the journal PLOS One. An additional 110,068 deaths were attributed to adults having just some college exposure, but no degree.

Over 10 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 do not have a high school degree, while less than 30 percent went to college but never attained their bachelor’s, according to the study.


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.

–Patrick Krueger, study co-author


It’s no secret that education goes hand in hand with an overall higher quality of life. Those with advanced degrees tend to make more money, enjoy better health and thrive socially and psychologically, according to researchers.

On the other side, those without a high school diploma often have a more difficult time accessing health care, finding adequate work and housing and suffer from poor overall health.

“Education is important because it sets the stage for a person’s life,” study co-author Patrick Krueger told the Denver Post. “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.”

The study saw mortality rates fall as education levels rose, particularly with those who attained a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“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,” Krueger told Healthline.

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Jessica Ivins

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