You’re likely no stranger to the ubiquitous warning that’s become a quip — “stay in school.” Yet, how much truth is at the foundation of this familiar phrase? The way university functions today, it can feel like the stress of staying in school is more of a health risk than leaving it. Yet, researchers have exhaustively reviewed data from a longitudinal study—meaning the study followed the same people over a long period (and they said my B.A. in psychology was useless!)—that points to a positive outcome to all that studying.
After analyzing data from 5,114 people across four American cities, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Yale School of Medicine have seen how education affects lifespan. In this research, both race and education were taken into consideration for their influence on lifespan. The study found that the level of education, not race, is the best predictor of who will live the longest. Roughly 13% of participants who obtained a high school degree or less education died compared with approximately 5% of those who had graduated from college, making for a strong difference between the two.
Another interesting comparison the study revealed was how minor the differences were between populations when both race and education were compared simultaneously. It was observed that 13.5% of black participants and 13.2% of white subjects with either a high school degree or less education had died, but in comparison, 5.9% of black participants and 4.3% of whites with college degrees had died. Overall, the difference in death rates by race is minimal, but regarding education, these differences were substantial.
The takeaway from this research is the far-reaching value that an education can provide; not only does it increase your job prospects and expand your knowledge, but getting an education can lower your risk of an untimely death. While it might not feel like school is sparing your health and making your lifespan longer when you’re pulling those all-nighters to finish a procrastinated upon paper, trust the science and persevere. It turns out “stay in school” is a research-backed statement after all.