More education, socioeconomic benefits equals longer life

August 6, 2012

Despite advances in health care and increases in life expectancy overall, Americans with less than a high school education have life expectancies similar to adults in the 1950s and 1960s.

"The most highly educated white men live about 14 years longer than the least educated black men," says S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "The least educated black women live about 10 years less than the most educated white women."

The research, funded by The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society, examined life expectancy by race, sex and education and examined trends in from 1990 through 2008.

The study is published in the August issue of the journal Health Affairs.

"Over the last couple of decades, almost all longevity boats have risen," said Olshansky, but there have been some subgroups that have had a drop in life expectancy."

"It's as if Americans with the least education are living in a time warp," he said. The least educated black men are living in 1954, black women in 1962, white women in 1964, and in 1972.

One surprising finding, according to Olshansky, is that white women with less than 12 years of education can expect to live five years less than their counterparts did in 1990 (a decline from age 78 to 73).

Black women with less than 12 years education can expect to live to age 74, up from age 73 two decades ago.

The researchers speculate that the least educated black women are experiencing high levels of obesity which has a latent, or delayed effect, on , while may be adopting more immediately lethal behaviors such as smoking, and drug use.

"There are essentially two America's," said Olshansky.

One subgroup of the population is highly educated, doing well, and they are experiencing a dramatic increase in life expectancy, he said. Another subgroup of the population is less educated, doing very poorly, and experiencing a drop or only modest increases in .

The researchers conclude that education and socioeconomic status are extremely important variables that influence variations in longevity. They suggest that one of the most important ways to address these large disparities is through lifelong education.

"We must find a way to bring these subgroups of the population back into the present," Olshansky said.

Explore further: Most US presidents live beyond average life expectancy

Related Stories

Most US presidents live beyond average life expectancy

December 6, 2011
Contrary to claims that U.S. presidents age at twice the normal rate, a new study finds that most U.S. presidents live longer than expected for men of their same age and era.

Study shows significant state-by-state differences in black, white life expectancy

February 24, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A UCLA-led group of researchers tracing disparities in life expectancy between blacks and whites in the U.S. has found that white males live about seven years longer on average than African American men ...

Recommended for you

Postmenopausal women should still steer clear of HRT: task force

December 12, 2017
(HealthDay)—Yet again, the nation's leading authority on preventive medicine says postmenopausal women should avoid hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Will 'AI' be part of your health-care team?

December 12, 2017
(HealthDay)—Artificial intelligence is assuming a greater role in many walks of life, with research suggesting it may even help doctors diagnose disease.

State-level disclosure laws affect patients' eagerness to have their DNA tested

December 12, 2017
Different types of privacy laws in U.S. states produce markedly different effects on the willingness of patients to have genetic testing done, according to a new study co-authored by an MIT professor.

Babies born during famine have lower cognition in midlife

December 12, 2017
Hunger and malnutrition in infancy may lead to poor cognitive performance in midlife, according to a new study.

Full moon linked to increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes

December 11, 2017
The full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, finds a study in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

'Man flu' may be real

December 11, 2017
The much-debated phenomenon of "man flu" may have some basis in fact, suggests an article published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.