Not only obesity and consumption of alcoholic beverages: a study carried out by an international team and published in the U.S. journal Aging revealed that a (low) level of education can lead to ‘bad aging’, regardless of other risk factors. The somewhat revolutionary thesis is the following: the impact of low education is – on average – comparable to that of other factors (excluding smoking).
The level of education is considered a real health problem, a direct risk factor. According to the study, education becomes a “direct investment in health” or a direct risk for health, with no further mediations other than the possible, alternative achievement of a high socio-economic position.
The article, named Socioeconomic position, lifestyle habits and biomarkers of epigenetic aging: a multi-cohort analysis, stresses that differences in health status by socioeconomic position (SEP) tend to be more obvious at older ages and suggest the involvement of a biological mechanism that is responsive to the accumulation of deleterious exposures across the lifespan. Such “deleterious exposures” are apparently highlighted by four biological aging biomarkers, which refer to DNA methylation and that conserve memory of endogenous and exogenous stress throughout life.
The most enthralling thought of the article is that of directly considering and treating the level of education as a health issue, namely as a direct risk factor and not just some sort of simple social determinant. In a nutshell, education is no longer just a parameter that contributes to form specific indexes that, in turn, modulate and ponder other items.
However, promoting (or regulating) actions that can prevent behaviours which can lead to obesity is very different from encouraging the achievement of high education levels. For the time being, what we can surely do – in terms of education – is to give more value to its predictive facet. It might seem trivial, but it isn’t: in fact, while the level of education is not directly the cause of your future health status, it can surely be a predictor of it. And even if we cannot predict how present-day youths will age based on the lifestyles that shall take root in the years to come, we can – according to this article – try to predict aging as a consequence of the education levels currently achieved.