How Education Predicts Life Expectancy

Education has a major impact on life expectancy. This is evident when observing the correlation between education and health disparity. Namely, highly educated individuals have a much longer life expectancy than less-educated people in every age, gender and racial/ethnic subgroup of the population. Specifically, the mortality rate is four times higher for people who have not completed high school compared to people with sixteen or more years of education. That is, life expectancy is about a decade shorter for people who do not have a high school degree compared with those who have completed college.1,2  

Why Does Education Improve Life Expectancy?

Education is a fundamental component of personal and professional development as it allows to develops critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills essential to obtain a good job, advance a career and secure financial resources for oneself and loved ones. Indeed, higher level of education usually results in better life choices, higher income, better access to healthcare, a greater ability to retrieve and process health information, more extensive supportive networks and increased self-efficacy.3,4,5

Education Affects Life Expectancy Across Generations

Parents with higher levels of education have better knowledge and understanding of health and nutrition and are more likely to seek out and utilize healthcare services for themselves and their children. That is, the educational attainment of parents, particularly mothers, is associated with lower levels of child mortality.6 In fact, maternal education is the most important factor in reducing child mortality rates in low-income countries.7

Education Supports Health Systems

Education improves individual health but also community health. Namely, at the societal level, education creates skilled workforce that can support an effective health system for the benefit of the community. Indeed, well-educated and skilled healthcare professionals can provide high quality care, diagnose and treat illnesses accurately and implement the latest medical advancements. Education also fosters a culture of research and innovation that fuels the advancement medical knowledge and the development of new treatments that improves patient care.

Closing Remarks

The attainment of every education level from elementary school to university, brings an increase in life expectancy. The attainment of high school diploma actually brings about the most significant improvement in life expectancy. Beyond high school, reaching additional levels of education brings about increased life expectancy but with diminishing returns. As such, any level of education that comes before a financially restrictive college degree is worth pursuing considering the improvement in life expectancy that comes with achieving lower levels of education.

Predicting life expectancy is complex and needs to take many factors into consideration. Youlldie allows to visualize how education interacts with other factors like gender, race, world region, income, alcohol, tobacco, physical activity, sleep, blood pressure, body mass index and family history to statistically predict life expectancy.


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  2. Rogers RG, Everett BG, Zajacova A, Hummer RA. Educational degrees and adult mortality risk in the United States. Biodemography Soc Biol. 2010;56(1):80-99. doi: 10.1080/19485561003727372. PMID: 20589989; PMCID: PMC3184464.
  3. Link BG, Phelan J. Social conditions as fundamental causes of disease. J Health Soc Behav. 1995;Spec No:80-94. PMID: 7560851.
  4. Link BG, Phelan J. Social conditions as fundamental causes of disease. J Health Soc Behav. 1995;Spec No:80-94. PMID: 7560851.
  5. Mirowsky, J., & Ross, C. E. (1998). Education, Personal Control, Lifestyle and Health: A Human Capital Hypothesis. Research on Aging20(4), 415–449.
  6. Mirza Balaj et al. Parental education and inequalities in child mortality: a global systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet. Volume 398, Issue 10300, p.608-620.
  7. Cleland JG, Van Ginneken JK. Maternal education and child survival in developing countries: the search for pathways of influence. Soc Sci Med. 1988;27(12):1357-68. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(88)90201-8. PMID: 3070762.