Every year of education can reduce your mortality risk by nearly 2 per cent, a new study has found.
Not having any education, meanwhile, is as bad for your health as drinking too much alcohol or smoking 10 cigarettes a year for 10 years.
That’s according to a meta-analysis that aimed to quantify the relationship between education and mortality. The review included 603 studies from across the globe.
The findings were published in the scientific journal The Lancet Public Health this week.
“Education is important in its own right, not just for its benefits on health, but now being able to quantify the magnitude of this benefit is a significant development,” Dr Terje Andreas Eikemo, co-author and head of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)’s Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research, said in a statement.
People who completed primary school had an average 13 per cent lower risk of death, while those who completed secondary school (with 12 years of education) had a 25 per cent lower risk of death compared to those who did not.
People with 18 years of education had a 34 per cent reduction in mortality risk.
Education’s role in ‘closing the mortality gap’
“These findings are similar to the protective effects of a good diet and physical activity and the harms of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol,” the authors said.
“Closing the education gap means closing the mortality gap, and we need to interrupt the cycle of poverty and preventable deaths with the help of international commitment,” Claire Henson, co-first author and researcher at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), said in a statement.
“In order to reduce inequalities in mortality, it’s important to invest in areas that promote people’s opportunities to get an education. This can have a positive effect on population health in all countries”.
Education is compulsory in EU countries, ranging from France and Hungary enrolling children at age 3 to Croatia and Estonia starting kids by age 7.
According to figures from the European Education and Culture Executive Agency, France, Belgium, and Germany have the longest duration of compulsory education in the bloc.
Most of the studies included in the meta-analysis published this week were from high-income areas, with the authors calling for more research from areas of the world where access to schooling is low.
“By increasing years of global schooling, we can help counteract growing disparities in mortality,” the authors said.
The funding for the study came from the Research Council of Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.