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The more educated you are, the longer you may live. New research from Woflgang Lutz and Endale Kebede of International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) shows that a person’s education level is a strong predictor of their life expectancy. Individuals with higher education tend to life longer and have healthier lifestyles. These findings run counter to previous notions that high income was the best predictor of a long life span.

In 1975, Samuel Preston was the first to suggest a correlation between wealth and life expectancy, with his findings documented on a chart known as the Preston Curve. A decade later, researchers contradicted those findings and suggested that lower mortality rate was a result of better female education.

Lutz and Kebede expounded on the latter findings. They used data from 1974 through 2015 to do a deep dive into the whys of life span. Their findings resulted in a more linear curve, which pointed to education as the likely best predictor for life expectancy. The researchers reason that the correlation stems from the fact that better education yields better cognition and ultimately better health-related behaviors.

And there is another factor. In the last three to four decades, the disease burden has shifted from infectious diseases to chronic illnesses, which are usually lifestyle related. Consequently, those who are more conscientious about health and lifestyle choices will fare better in prevention and treatment.

Still, there remains a connection between money and better health. Higher incomes are often the result of better education. But even when researchers control for income, higher education is the common denominator among those with longer life spans. This finding highlights the need to improve access to education globally

The full results of this research can be found on the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis site.

Arielle Neblett is a freelance writer for CASSIUS.