There are a variety of factors that have been attributed to longevity. Income, race, lifestyle and stress levels are just a few. Now health economist James Smith has discovered a surprising new factor that outweighs them all – education.

In reviewing year’s worth of studies, he found that extra schooling led to increased life span and improved health in later years. The results are so significant that fellow health economist Michael Grossman stated “I would put education at the top of my list.”

Research into this correlation began in earnest in 1999 with the work of graduate student Dr. Lleras-Muney. For her doctoral dissertation she studied the effects of mandatory schooling. She found that requiring children to attend just one more year of school led to an increased life expectancy of 1 ½ years.

This led other researchers to go through data from states and countries that had changed their laws to require children to stay in school longer. They found that in every case more years in school led to better health.

One possible explanation is that education teaches the ability to delay gratification. In order to receive an education you must be willing to “stick with it” and look to the future outcome. It is believed that this ability may lead to healthier lifestyle choices and, therefore, better health.

Researchers also found that the “education effect” never tapered off. This being the case, why not enroll in an online class or a workshop at your local community college? In addition to the joy that comes from learning something new, you may also add a few years to your life!

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