Study shows “death gap” growing

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: September 11th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

An education is not just your ticket to a better job these days. It may also lengthen your lifespan, a new study shows.

The newly published research found that the gap between overall death rates between Americans with less than a high school degree and college graduates increased sharply from 1993 to 2001.

The scientists analyzed death certificates that indicated the last year of school the deceased completed, as well as the cause of death for blacks and whites between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-four.

They found significant drops in mortality from all causes among the most educated men. This came largely due to decreases in their death rates from H-I-V infection, cancer and heart disease.

In comparison, the death rate rose among people with less than a high school education. The greatest annual percent increase… three-point-three percent… was among white women who did not finish high school.

Why are death rates falling among the educated but rising among the less educated? Researchers say that lower educational attainment is a marker of social and economic class. The have-nots are not only poorer, they are less likely to have health insurance or stable employment. That means they are less likely to have access to preventive health care and more likely to have difficulty navigating the medical system.

What’s the answer? That’s a question for this country’s politicians. But as the number of uninsured Americans continues to climb, many say it’s time to start finding some answers.