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Time Spent in Education is a Strong Predictor of Longevity

Posted on 24 February 2020

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A long term study, conducted in the US, reported that the number of years a person stays in school is a stronger predictor of longevity than race or ethnicity.

While there is a significant race-associated disparity in life expectancy in the US, the authors suggest that time spent in education is responsible for most of this effect. According to the study, each level of education achieved was associated with 1.37 fewer years of potential life lost (YPLL).

The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) from the American Public Health Association (APHA) publications. (2020). Retrieved 24 February 2020, from

The finding that education predicts life expectancy is nothing new. Multiple studies have previously shown that education is associated with both greater life expectancy and better health in old age.

Netherlands: Health System Review

The interesting finding here is that education was a better independent predictor than race. For study co-author Professor Brita Roy, this finding is a cause for positivity:

It’s saying we have a real, concrete way to alleviate these health disparities. There are clear changes that we can make as a society to improve educational equity. So to me, it provides some hope.

Pattillo, A., Pattillo, A., & Pattillo, A. (2020). Mortality rate by education level? Chart shows where people end up. Retrieved 24 February 2020, from

However, it can be very challenging to control for confounding factors in these kinds of studies. Income plays a huge role in determining life expectancy, and some factors, such as social connections or education received outside of school, are difficult to quantify and so cannot be adjusted for effectively.

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    Education, Race/Ethnicity, and Causes of Premature Mortality Among Middle-Aged Adults in 4 US Urban Communities: Results From CARDIA, 1985–2017: doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.305506)


    Netherlands: Health System Review:

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