Choosing to drop out of school or forgo higher education directly impacts life expectancy, according to a study conducted by academics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the University of Washington in Seattle. This groundbreaking study, highlighted by the esteemed medical journal The Lancet Public Health, establishes a clear link between the number of years of education and an individual’s average life expectancy.

Researchers argue that each year spent in school or university contributes positively to life expectancy, emphasizing that not attending school is as detrimental to health as excessive smoking or alcohol consumption.

The British newspaper The Guardian notes, “Completing primary, secondary, and university education is akin to maintaining a healthy diet throughout life, reducing the risk of death by 34% compared to those who end their educational journey prematurely.” The analysis also reveals that improvements in longevity are consistent across both affluent and impoverished countries, irrespective of factors such as gender, social class, and demographics.

Data from industrialized countries (including the UK and the US) and developing nations like China and Brazil were utilized in the research. A noteworthy finding affirms the positive impact of education on life expectancy, regardless of an individual’s latitude and socio-economic background. As highlighted by The Guardian, “the research suggests that an adult’s risk of mortality decreases by 2% for every year of full-time education.” Conversely, “not attending school at any time has proven to be as harmful to health as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks every day or smoking 10 cigarettes every day for a decade.”

This study is sparking discussions, particularly in countries where public education is not guaranteed, and pursuing education, especially beyond high school, often comes with prohibitive costs. In England, where access to education is not assured for less affluent families, The Guardian reports that “average life expectancy has dropped to the lowest level in the last ten years.”

At the extreme, not attending school at any time was found to be equally detrimental to adults’ health as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks every day or smoking 10 cigarettes every day for a decade.

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