Health Disparities Resulting from Educational Gaps

Author: Yudai Kaneda (Johnny Yudai Schwarz)

18 December, 2021




Many possible factors may lead to health disparities, including large-scale ones such as race, religion, status, residential environment, and differences at the individual level, such as living alone, occupation, and socioeconomic status (SES). (Arcaya et al., 2015) Education inequality is a significant factor causing health inequality, especially in developed countries. (Gottfredson, 2004) A previous study estimated that a 30-year-old white male who has not graduated from high school has, on average, ten years less healthy life expectancy than a white male of the same age who has graduated from high school. (Crimmins and Saito, 2001) In another study, it has been shown that less education leads to earlier onset of chronic diseases, disability, and lower functional status. (Din-Dzietham et al., 2000). As these studies have shown, being poorly educated is a major risk factor for health. The main reason is that differences in education lead to differences in occupation, income, and living environment in the population average.


However, the impact of having a low level of education on health is not limited to these socioeconomic factors. For example, previous studies have shown that having a low level of education is strongly associated with various risk behaviors, such as unwanted early teenage pregnancies due to early sexual activity, criminal tendencies, smoking, and drinking, etc. (Upchurch et al., 2002, Lantz et al., 1998)


Including the above perspectives, it is crucial to properly understand the impact of social determinants of health on health inequalities. (Marmot, 2017) Therefore, it is hazardous to underestimate the impact of education on health. Suppose the problem of educational disparity on health disparity is left unaddressed. In that case, it is likely to bring about various disadvantages, such as discrimination because a certain percentage of low-income people cannot have children, aging of the population due to low fertility, and worsening welfare level. (Cogburn, 2019) Therefore, there is an urgent need to take an appropriate approach to this problem.


References

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COGBURN, C. D. 2019. Culture, Race, and Health: Implications for Racial Inequities and Population Health. Milbank Q, 97, 736-761.

CRIMMINS, E. M. & SAITO, Y. 2001. Trends in healthy life expectancy in the United States, 1970-1990: gender, racial, and educational differences. Soc Sci Med, 52, 1629-41.

DIN-DZIETHAM, R., LIAO, D., DIEZ-ROUX, A., NIETO, F. J., PATON, C., HOWARD, G., BROWN, A., CARNETHON, M. & TYROLER, H. A. 2000. Association of educational achievement with pulsatile arterial diameter change of the common carotid artery: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, 1987-1992. Am J Epidemiol, 152, 617-27.

GOTTFREDSON, L. S. 2004. Intelligence: is it the epidemiologists' elusive "fundamental cause" of social class inequalities in health? J Pers Soc Psychol, 86, 174-99.

LANTZ, P. M., HOUSE, J. S., LEPKOWSKI, J. M., WILLIAMS, D. R., MERO, R. P. & CHEN, J. 1998. Socioeconomic factors, health behaviors, and mortality: results from a nationally representative prospective study of US adults. JAMA, 279, 1703-8.

MARMOT, M. 2017. Social justice, epidemiology and health inequalities. Eur J Epidemiol, 32, 537-546.

UPCHURCH, D. M., LILLARD, L. A. & PANIS, C. W. 2002. Nonmarital childbearing: influences of education, marriage, and fertility. Demography, 39, 311-29.

About the Author

Yudai Kaneda (Johnny Yudai Schwarz)

Born in Frauenfeld, Switzerland.

Half German and half Japanese, and currently a fourth-year medical student at Hokkaido University in Japan.

Since this September, has been studying at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, specializing in health policy and global health.



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