Mortality attributable to low levels of education in the United States

Patrick M. Krueger, Melanie K. Tran, Robert A. Hummer, Virginia W. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Educational disparities in U.S. adult mortality are large and have widened across birth cohorts. We consider three policy relevant scenarios and estimate the mortality attributable to: (1) individuals having less than a high school degree rather than a high school degree, (2) individuals having some college rather than a baccalaureate degree, and (3) individuals having anything less than a baccalaureate degree rather than a baccalaureate degree, using educational disparities specific to the 1925, 1935, and 1945 cohorts. Methods: We use the National Health Interview Survey data (1986-2004) linked to prospective mortality through 2006 (N=1,008,949), and discrete-time survival models, to estimate educationand cohort-specific mortality rates. We use those mortality rates and data on the 2010 U.S. population from the American Community Survey, to calculate annual attributable mortality estimates. Results: If adults aged 25-85 in the 2010 U.S. population experienced the educational disparities in mortality observed in the 1945 cohort, 145,243 deaths could be attributed to individuals having less than a high school degree rather than a high school degree, 110,068 deaths could be attributed to individuals having some college rather than a baccalaureate degree, and 554,525 deaths could be attributed to individuals having anything less than a baccalaureate degree rather than a baccalaureate degree. Widening educational disparities between the 1925 and 1945 cohorts result in a doubling of attributable mortality. Mortality attributable to having less than a high school degree is proportionally similar among women and men and among non-Hispanic blacks and whites, and is greater for cardiovascular disease than for cancer. Conclusions: Mortality attributable to low education is comparable in magnitude to mortality attributable to individuals being current rather than former smokers. Existing research suggests that a substantial part of the association between education and mortality is causal. Thus, policies that increase education could significantly reduce adult mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0131809
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 8 2015

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educational status
Education
Mortality
high schools
education
death
Health Surveys
Population
cardiovascular diseases
interviews
Cardiovascular Diseases
Parturition
Interviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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Krueger, P. M., Tran, M. K., Hummer, R. A., & Chang, V. W. (2015). Mortality attributable to low levels of education in the United States. PLoS One, 10(7), [e0131809]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131809

Mortality attributable to low levels of education in the United States. / Krueger, Patrick M.; Tran, Melanie K.; Hummer, Robert A.; Chang, Virginia W.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 10, No. 7, e0131809, 08.07.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Krueger, PM, Tran, MK, Hummer, RA & Chang, VW 2015, 'Mortality attributable to low levels of education in the United States', PLoS One, vol. 10, no. 7, e0131809. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131809
Krueger, Patrick M. ; Tran, Melanie K. ; Hummer, Robert A. ; Chang, Virginia W. / Mortality attributable to low levels of education in the United States. In: PLoS One. 2015 ; Vol. 10, No. 7.
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