Health of U.S. Tied to Education Gap, Researchers Report

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, May 17, 2012

Higher levels of education in the U.S. correlate with longer life expectancy and less obesity, according to the government’s annual health report.

Obesity, which leads to chronic ailments such as diabetes and heart disease, was twice as high among boys and three times as high for girls in families whose head of household lacked a degree compared with more educated households. The report, which included a special feature on socioeconomic status and health, was released today by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Health disparities persist even in the face of efforts to lower them, Amy Bernstein, a health services researcher and lead study author, said in a telephone interview. The Department of Health and Human Services has created programs to help reduce the illness inequalities that appear for certain racial and economic groups. Today’s report suggests the programs haven’t been successful, she said.

“There are huge differences by education,” Bernstein said. “I was surprised to see things haven’t improved.”

As of 2006, a 25-year-old man without a college degree lived 9.3 fewer years than a peer with a bachelor’s degree or higher; for women, the less-educated lived 8.6 fewer years, according to the report. The life expectancy gap by education widened by 1.9 years for men and 2.8 years for women from 1996 to 2006, the report said.

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