Does Lack of Education Kill?

That seems to be one of the findings of a recent study published on Monday, March 4, 2013, by two University of Wisconsin researchers, David Kindig and Erika Cheng.

It used to be common knowledge that women outlived men by several years, but that gap seems to be narrowing. Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press states that the average life span for a baby girl born today is 81, and for a baby boy, it’s 76. The gap has been narrowing. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows women’s longevity is not growing at the same pace as men’s.

This phenomenon of some women losing ground appears to have begun in the late 1980s, though studies have begun to spotlight it only in the last few years,” Stobbe explains. and Cheng poured over federal death data and other information to discover that among the 3,141 U.S. counties over a 10-year span, mortality rates for women age 75 and younger is on the rise. These deaths were considered “premature deaths” because many of them are considered preventable.

What’s largely to blame? Lack of  education! As a veteran social studies teacher, I deciphered statistical data for many countries as recorded in the CIA World Factbook. I, Frances Ohanenye, arrived at this conclusion: Countries with low literacy rates have high adult and infant mortality rates. The studies by Kindig, Murray, and others confirm what I have surmised all these years.

A similar study undertaken by Dr. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington two years ago found that women in the South who did not finish high school were dying at a high rate.

According to Stobbe, other studies with a similar focus found that life expectancy seems to be growing for more educated and affluent women. Some experts also have identified smoking or obesity among women as factors dragging down life expectancy.

“The study is the latest to spot this pattern, especially among disadvantaged white women. Some leading theories blame higher smoking rate, obesity, and less education,” Stobbe explains.

Lack of education has been linked to increase in the HIV epidemic in the South and researchers continue to document positive relationship between high level of education and health. Other studies are throwing in the effects of recent recession and astronomical unemployment rates in the mix to determine the impact of these economic components on education and age on mortality.