[Homestead] I'm going back to school!
genegerue at ruralize.com
Wed Jan 3 16:29:43 EST 2007
A Surprising Secret to a Long Life: Stay in School
Michael Stravato for The New York Times
Irma Lara, 75, who came to the United States from Mexico when she was
26, spends time exercising at a community center in Texas.
By GINA KOLATA
Published: January 3, 2007
James Smith, a health economist at the RAND Corporation, has heard a
variety of hypotheses about what it takes to live a long life —
money, lack of stress, a loving family, lots of friends. But he has
been a skeptic.
The New Age
Piece in a Puzzle
This is last of four articles looking at the science of aging. The
articles will remain online at nytimes.com/aging.
Yes, he says, it is clear that on average some groups in every
society live longer than others. The rich live longer than the poor,
whites live longer than blacks in the United States. Longevity, in
general, is not evenly distributed in the population. But what, he
asks, is cause and what is effect? And how can they be disentangled?
He is venturing, of course, into one of the prevailing mysteries of
aging, the persistent differences seen in the life spans of large
groups. In every country, there is an average life span for the
nation as a whole and there are average life spans for different
subsets, based on race, geography, education and even churchgoing.
But the questions for researchers like Dr. Smith are why? And what
The answers, he and others say, have been a surprise. The one social
factor that researchers agree is consistently linked to longer lives
in every country where it has been studied is education. It is more
important than race; it obliterates any effects of income.
Year after year, in study after study, says Richard Hodes, director
of the National Institute on Aging, education “keeps coming up.”
And, health economists say, those factors that are popularly believed
to be crucial — money and health insurance, for example, pale in
Dr. Smith explains: “Giving people more Social Security income, or
less for that matter, will not really affect people’s health. It is
a good thing to do for other reasons but not for health.”
Health insurance, too, he says, “is vastly overrated in the policy
Instead, Dr. Smith and others say, what may make the biggest
difference is keeping young people in school. A few extra years of
school is associated with extra years of life and vastly improved
health decades later, in old age.
The rest of the story is at:
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