Better educated people more able to adjust to new health research

This finding from a study in the December issue of American Sociological Review has been getting a lot of attention: despite efforts to even out the effect more education has on health, higher levels of education still lead to better health outcomes. Here’s why:

Professor Richard Miech of the University of Colorado Denver and colleagues said data have showed for decades middle-aged adults with low education levels — high school or less — are twice as likely to die as those with higher education levels.

Miech’s study, published in the American Sociological Review, provides new understanding as to why death rates for less educated middle-aged adults are much higher than for their more educated peers, despite increased awareness and treatments aimed at reducing health disparities.

The researchers found as new causes of death emerge, people with lower education levels are slower to respond with behavioral changes, creating a moving target that often remains a step ahead of prevention efforts.

Despite efforts to reduce education-based mortality disparities, the gap remains because new health disparities counteract the efforts to reduce the death rates for those with less education — the causes of death have changed, rates have not, Miech said.

Translation: the world continues to change and certain groups are better positioned in society to take advantage.

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