Each school year reduces the risk of premature death by 2% - Greek-participated research

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18 years of education is associated with a 34% reduced mortality, according to a study in which Greek-born professor Emmanuela Gakidou participated

Education saves lives regardless of age, gender, location and social and demographic background. This results from a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

The findings showed that the risk of premature death decreased by 2% with each additional year of education, meaning those who completed six years of primary school had an average 12% lower risk of death.

Completing secondary education reduced the risk of death by almost 25%, while 18 years of education was associated with a 34% lower risk. The benefits of education are greatest for young people, but people over 50 or 70 still benefit from the protective effects of education.

In another stage of the study, the research team compared the effects of education with other influencing factors, such as healthy eating, smoking and alcohol abuse, and found that the results were similar. Characteristically, the benefits of 18 years of education were comparable to those of eating an ideal amount of vegetables.

The study also showed that complete abstinence from schooling is as harmful as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks a day or smoking ten cigarettes a day for ten years.

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"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," one of the study's authors and head of the Center for Research on Inequalities in Global Health at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

“We need to increase social investments to enable access to better and more education around the globe to stop the persistent inequalities that are costing lives,” said Mirza Balaj, co-lead author and postdoctoral fellow at NTNU’s Department of Sociology and Political Science. “More education leads to better employment and higher income, better access to healthcare, and helps us take care of our own health. Highly educated people also tend to develop a larger set of social and psychological resources that contribute to their health and the length of their lives.”

The research evaluated more than 600 scientific publications with data from 59 countries. The researchers point out, however, that more research is needed in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan and northern Africa, where data are scarce.

“Our focus now should be on regions of the world where we know access to schooling is low, and where there is also limited research on education as a determinant of health,” said Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, co-author and professor at IHME.

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