The lifespan of poor, uneducated white people living in the United States has shrunk dramatically, new research has found. While researchers have long known that the most educated Americans tend to live longer than the less educated, this new research has a new, especially troubling twist; it shows that poor people's lives are actually getting shorter. The life expectancy of America's least-educated whites has fallen by four years since 1990, the New York Times reported.
The most dramatic declines were for white women without a high school diploma. That group lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008. “We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” John G. Haaga, a population expert not involved with the study, told the Times.
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The study also found that of those without a high school diploma, black women now live longer than white women, a rather "shocking discovery," Atlanta Black Star reported. But American women of any race are still doing worse than than their peers. The Human Mortality Database recently ranked 37 high-income nations, and found that in 2010, American women had shorter lives than every other nation ranked.
Meanwhile, this latest research shows that a lack of education appears to be unhealthy for all demographics. The last time that life expectancy fell by this much, it was because of the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, according to Smithsonian. "The message for policy makers is clear: implement educational enhancements at young, middle, and older ages for people of all races, to reduce the large gap in health and longevity that persists today," the study's authors concluded.