Dropping out of high school could impact future risk for heart disease, based on a recent study that links lower levels of education to increased cardiovascular risk.
Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, this study tracked the health of nearly 14,000 adults from 1987 through 2013. Participants had varying levels of education, based on questionnaires completed upon enrollment and came from four U.S. communities in Maryland, North Carolina, Mississippi and Minnesota.
Overall, researchers found that one in five adults had less than a high school education, while one-third reported completing high school. The remainder of participants completed either vocational school, college and/or graduate school.
Between 1987 and 2013, nearly one-third of participants developed heart disease, heart failure or stroke. Researchers found that adults completing grade school were significantly more likely to develop heart disease than those with more education.
For example, the likelihood that men would develop heart disease between ages 45 and 85 ranged from 42% among those completing graduate school to 59% among those completing grade school only. Similarly, risk for heart disease among women ranged from 28% among those completing graduate school to 51% among those completing grade school.
Authors note that these differences remained significant, even after taking account factors like income and occupation.
According to authors, findings demonstrate the direct impact that disparities in education have on health outcomes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. However, this study shows that adults with lower levels of education are significantly more likely to develop heart disease than those with higher levels of education. Therefore, experts highlight the importance of addressing health factors as well as socioeconomic factors to eliminate health disparities.