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The effect of education on adult mortality and disability: a global perspective

Samir Kc and Harold Lentzner

Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, 2010, vol. 8, issue 1, 201-235

Abstract: Contemporary research primarily in the West offers a strong case for the relationship between formal education and adult health; more education, measured either by level completed or years of schooling, is associated, often in a stepwise fashion, with lower levels of mortality, morbidity and disability. In this study, we attempt to provide a global assessment of that relationship as it pertains to adult disability, using sample data from 70 countries that participated in the World Health Survey. In each of five regions and some of the largest countries outside the West we find that an increase in formal education is associated with lower levels of disability in both younger and older adults. Using the regional education-based differentials and several estimates of growth in education levels, we project levels of disability to 2050 to estimate the health and human capital benefits obtained from investments in education. We find that considering education in the population projection consistently shows lower prevalence of disability in the future, and that scenarios with better education attainment lead to lower prevalence. It is apparent that the educational dividend identified in our projection scenario should be an important policy goal, which, if anything, should be more speedily advanced in those countries and regions that have the greatest need.

Date: 2010
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