Correlation of Remaining Life Expectancy and Education Continues into Extreme Old Age

It is well known that education level correlates with life expectancy, one link in a web of correlations between wealth, status, intelligence, and a wide range of related statistics derived from demographic and epidemiological studies. There may in fact be a biological link between robust health and greater intelligence, but the general consensus is that these observed correlations arise from better lifestyle choices, better access to medicine, and greater ability to make use of the medical establishment. It is nonetheless interesting to see that the education correlation continues into very late life, when individuals are struggling with a high load of cell and tissue damage, and genetic factors start to become more important in determining remaining life expectancy:

Socioeconomic inequalities in life expectancy have been shown among the middle aged and the youngest of the old individuals, but the situation in the oldest old is less clear. The aim of this study was to investigate trends in life expectancy at ages 85, 90 and 95 years by education in Norway in the period 1961-2009. This was a register-based population study including all residents in Norway aged 85 and over. Individual-level data were provided by the Central Population Register and the National Education Database. For each decade during 1961-2009, death rates by 1-year age groups were calculated separately for each sex and three educational categories. Annual life tables were used to calculate life expectancy at ages 85, 90 and 95.

Educational differentials in life expectancy at each age were non-significant in the early decades, but became significant over time. For example, for the decade 2000-9, a man aged 90 years with primary education had a life expectancy of 3.4 years, while a man with tertiary education could expect to live for 3.8 years. Similar numbers in women were 4.1 and 4.5 years, respectively. Even among 95-year-old men, statistically significant differences in life expectancy were found by education in the two last decades. Education matters regarding remaining life expectancy also for the oldest old in Norway. Life expectancy at these ages is low, so a growth of 0.5 years in the life expectancy differential is sizeable.



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