There’s another way to live longer — by staying in school.
Forget picking up golf or never being angry, like soon-to-be 113-year-old Chitetsu Watanabe, the secret to living a longer life is by continuing one’s education beyond high school, which is a two-way street both financial and medically, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine and the University of Alabama-Birmingham teamed up for a dual study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, where they focused on two specific factors that often influence a lifespan: race and education.
The two teams compiled data from more than 5,000 black and white individuals in four US cities, who were recruited approximately 30 years ago when they were in their 20s. Currently, the participants are in their mid-50s and researchers found that education was the best predictor of who will live longer.
“These findings are powerful,” said Yale assistant professor Brita Roy, who authored the paper, in a press statement. “They suggest that improving equity in access to and quality of education is something tangible that can help reverse this troubling trend in reduction of life expectancy among middle-aged adults.”
Stay in school
Researchers recruited participants from four cities across the US — Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oakland, California. Since the start of the longevity study, 391 participants passed away out of the more than 5,000 participants, researchers said.
Researchers noted how rates of death among participants showed racial differences. Nine percent of blacks died at an early age compared to 6% of white. In addition, how people died were different — black men were more likely to die by homicide and white men were more likely to die from AIDS. Cardiovascular disease and cancer was the most common cause of death between the groups, the study said.
But one of the biggest revelations was rates of death by education levels. Nearly 13% of participants with a high school degree or less died compared to 5% who were college graduates. Researchers also noted when comparing race and education together, there were no real differences between the two groups. 13.5 percent of black participants and 13.2% of white participants with a high school degree or less died throughout the study, while 5.9% of black subjects and 4.3% of white subjects with college degrees died.
How researchers measured the differences in age-related mortality, they used a tool called Years of Potential Life Lost, which calculated projected life expectancy minus age at death. They found that each level of education progression meant 1.37 fewer years of lost life expectancy, according to the study.
Exercise can also help you live longer. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin published their findings in Brain Plasticity, where they examined the benefits of aerobic exercise and what it does to the brain. Past research found that 30 minutes of daily exercise may be the key to reducing Alzheimer’s symptoms, but this new study focused on people more at risk of developing the disease, specifically wondering if a strict exercise routine would benefit people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease but who currently do not show symptoms of the disease yet.
“This study is a significant step toward developing an exercise prescription that protects the brain against AD, even among people who were previously sedentary,” said lead investigator Ozioma C. Okonkwo, Ph.D., of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, in a press release.