An extra year in school may have significant health effects, according to a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Swedish children enrolled in an extra year of school had lower rates of mortality later in life.
After World War II, Sweden instituted educational reforms, including increasing the mandatory schooling time. But before instituting this change nation-wide, the government directed a controlled study between 1949 and 1962. Some districts adopted a 9 year program while some continued to school children for 8 years. When the 9 year program’s benefits became clear, such as more children qualifying for secondary school, it was adopted country-wide in 1962.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, tested whether the extra year had an effect on health outcomes by looking at death records from 1961 and 2007. They found that the extra year correlated with a lower risk of dying after mid-life (between 40 and 70). Because the reforms were designed to test the effect of differing educations, the study “supports the view that education has a causal role in health,” Marcus Richards, a cognitive epidemiologist at University College London, told Nature.