Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lesser-educated white people, especially women, are living shorter lives, study finds

The life expectancy of white people without a high school diploma fell from 1990 to 2008, with women losing the most, an average of five years, according to a new University of Illinois at Chicago study. These demographics (older and less educated) are disproportionately rural.

The average life expectancy for white women without a high-school diploma was 73.5 years, compared to 83.9 for those with a four-year college degree or more. White men who did not fionish high school are living an average of 67.5 years, compared to 80.4 for those with a four-year degree or more.

"The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription-drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less-educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least-educated Americans who lack health insurance," reports Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times.

"Some cautioned that the results could be overstated because Americans without a high school diploma — about 12 percent of the population, down from about 22 percent in 1990, according to the Census Bureau — were a shrinking group that was now more likely to be disadvantaged in ways besides education, compared with past generations," Tavernise reports.

The study was published last month in the journal Health Affairs, and the National Academy of Sciences is investigating the decline to better determine its cause. (Read more)

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