Study: Parents of College-Educated Children Live Longer

Parents whose children have graduated from college increase their life expectancy for a few more years compared to parents who have children who never finished high school, says Robin Burks of  Tech Times.

Sociologists Esther M. Friedman and Robert D. Mare began with data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study of 25,000 adults who were older than 51.  The data included information from volunteers about their children, grandchildren and children-in-law.

This data, along with information from the National Death Index, were able to show that more than 7,000 of the volunteers in the Health and Retirement Study had died since 1992.  When researchers compared these numbers with a sample of volunteers who were still living, they found that 56% of those living had children with some college background. Friedman and Mare were able to formulate that parents whose children had college degrees live about 2 years longer than those who had children who had dropped out of high school.

Just as interesting was the fact that even if parents had college degrees of their own, having children with college degrees was more important to creating longer lifespans.

“In terms of the likelihood of dying at each time period in our study, the effects are actually even stronger for adult children’s educational attainments than one’s own level of education,” Friedman said.

The consensus is that better educated children are likely to have healthier lifestyles and encourage their parents to do the same.  It is possible that educated children would have a better grasp of when their parents require medical attention. It could be that children with better education have incomes that would allow them to take care of their aging parents.

“Improving the education of younger generations could potentially improve the health of two generations of the family (the younger generation as well as their parents),” Friedman said.  “This is something that policy makers could consider when evaluating the potential impact of a program.”

This two-year life expectancy bonus is equal to about two-thirds of the benefit of running every day, says Christopher Ingraham writing for The Washington Post.  He adds that in a 2012 Urban Institute report it was found that “an elderly person receives close to seven federal dollars for every dollar received by a child”.

The researchers specified more exactly that the average lifespan for parents of educated children was 71, while for parents who had children who did not go to school past high school, the average lifespan was 69, says Kent McDill, writing for The Millionaire Corner.

The study was sponsored by the Population Association of America (PAA) which is a “non-profit, scientific professional organization which promotes the improvement, advancement, and progress of the human race through the research of problems related to human population”.

The idea that should be taken from this study, says Robin Burks of Tech Times, could be that the country might be able to ensure better care for our future senior population by providing educational resources to children now.

The study suggests that it would behoove us to become involved in the betterment of education, in general, in the US so that the health of “two generations of the family” can be improved.