NEW YORK, July 11 (UPI) -- Results from a joint study between 3 U.S. universities suggests a strong link between higher education and lower death rates.
Researchers from the University of Colorado, New York University and the University of North Carolina found going back to finish high school or equivalency could avert as many deaths as could be averted by all smokers quitting.
According to the study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, those who attain higher education -- namely a high school diploma or college degree -- have lower mortality rates due to associated factors such as higher income, social status, enhanced cognitive development, healthier behavior and psychological wellbeing.
"In public health policy, we often focus on changing health behaviors such as diet, smoking, and drinking," said Virginia Chang, associate professor of public health at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, in a statement. "Education -- which is a more fundamental, upstream driver of health behaviors and disparities -- should also be a key element of U.S. health policy."
Researchers took advantage of the CDC's National Health Interview Survey and others to study data from 1 million people between the years 1986 and 2006. Focusing on those born in 1925, 1935 and 1945, they saw that over 145,000 deaths could have been postponed had the people without high school diplomas acquired at least a GED.
The study also suggests that about 110,000 deaths could have been avoided if those adults with some college had successfully earned their bachelor's degree.
A notable education disparity between 1925 and 1945 was also observed. Death related to having less than a high school diploma is "proportionally similar" among women and men and among non-Hispanic blacks and whites, according to the study. Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death among the study participants, with cancer as close second.