Education Most Important Indicator of Life Span
Education, not income or race, is the most important indicator of life span and health during old age, according to researchers, the New York Times reports.
According to James Smith, a health economist for RAND, and other researchers, studies have found a link between a few additional years of education and longer life spans and large improvements in health during old age.
Adriana Lleras-Muney, an assistant professor at Princeton University who conducted the first study to determine whether education is an indicator of life span, said that individuals with less education might have shorter life spans because they have less ability to plan for the future and delay gratification.
Smith said, "Most of adherence is unpleasant. You have to be willing to do something that is not pleasant now, and you have to stay with it and think about the future." He added, "Giving people more Social Security income, or less for that matter, will not really affect people's health. It is a good thing to do for other reasons but not for health." In addition, health insurance, as an indicator of life span and health during old age, "is vastly overrated in the policy debate," Smith said.
However, researchers said that more evidence is needed to determine the effect of education on life span and health during old age.
Richard Suzman, a program director at the National Institute on Aging, said, "We have only a vague idea of when and where early experience links to old age or when and where to intervene" (Kolata, New York Times, 1/3).