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Stay In School To Outsmart Death?

(WebMD) When it comes to education, does having more mean you live longer? A new study shows that highly educated Americans are expected to live longer than those with fewer years of schooling.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School looked at data from the National Health Interview Study from 1966 to 2003. From the 1980s to 2000, the findings show that those who lived the longest were the most highly educated.

The "highly educated" were defined as anyone who had had at least one year of college. The researchers defined "low level" of education as having at most graduated from high school.

More Findings

At age 25, life expectancy went up 1.5 years for the highly educated. During that same time, life expectancy for people with fewer years of schooling rose by just six months.

Across the board, life expectancy is on the rise, but just barely for those who have had at most a high school diploma.

Overall, the researchers found that African-Americans still die five years earlier than whites. An exception is that young African-American men narrowed the gap between education and life expectancy.

Why the Higher-Educated Are Expected to Live Longer

Researchers say one big factor is quitting smoking . More and more people have quit smoking , but the quitters have been among the highly educated groups.

Obesity is more common among the less educated. According to the study, recent research suggests that obesity might contribute to as many deaths as does smoking.

The study's authors urge creating a wider net of health-awareness programs in less-educated groups. The study appears in the March/April issue of Health Affairs.

The research team was led by Ellen Meara, PhD, at Harvard Medical School.

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