A new study has revealed that those who spend longer in school or university have an increased life expectancy on average.
The findings come from The Lancet Public Health journal which says that mortality risk decreases by 2% for each year spent in full-time education. The research compared the effects of education to other risk factors, such as eating a healthy diet, drinking, and smoking.
The study found that not going to school is just as bad as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks per day or smoking ten cigarettes daily. The research showed clear differences in mortality rates based on what stages of education were completed.
Completing just primary school lowered the risk of death by 13%, graduating secondary school lowered the risk of death by 25%, and for those who completed tertiary education, it was lowered by 34%, the same as following a healthy diet for a lifetime.
“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, Head of CHAIN
Dr. Terje Andreas Eikemo, a co-author of the research and head of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN) stated: “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.”
The research comes amidst what the House of Commons Education Committee describes as a “school absence crisis” in the UK, with statistics showing that rates of students missing 10% or more of school lessons had risen to 24.2%, over double the rate recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Neil Davies, Professor of Medical Statistics at University College London, noted that higher rates of school absences could see children missing out on future health benefits, also noting the potential damage absences could cause to the labour market.
However, the study itself notes that it has several limitations. Whilst the study did include evidence from some countries on each continent, there was a scarcity of studies from sub-Saharan and North Africa, and the study notes that more research needs to be carried out in these locations.
Another limitation noted by the study is that most data used was from high-income settings and that more research needs to be done on the effect of education on mortality risk in low- and middle-income countries.