Dropping out of high school doesn’t just lead to unemployment and poverty, warns a new study. Dropouts die at younger ages, probably because of poor health habits such as smoking and overeating that lead to cardiovascular disease. They’re also more likely to die prematurely as a result of accidents and suicide.
College dropouts also die earlier than people who completed a bachelor’s degree, the study found.
Finishing High School Could Be as Good For You as Quitting Smoking, writes Alia Wong in The Atlantic. It’s a beautiful example of confusing the symptom with the disease.
The difference in “the number of deaths that we can attribute to finishing high school or not is on par with the difference between current and former smokers,” said (Victoria) Chang, a public-health professor at NYU who focuses on obesity.
The more recent study found that disparities in mortality rates relative to different levels of education grew significantly over time. Encouraging individuals who haven’t finished high school to get their diplomas (or complete their GEDs), “could save twice as many lives among those born in 1945 as compared to those born in 1925,” the study’s press release says.
Ah, the magic diploma! We know that students with “executive function” skills, including impulse control, are more likely to complete high school and college. They’re also less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, tobacco and doughnuts.
Compared to Depression-era dropouts, contemporary dropouts are more likely to be impulsive, eat-the-marshmallow types.
Encouraging young people to learn self-control could raise their odds of earning a diploma and leading a healthy life. But it’s not the diploma.