Education is linked to longevity, according to a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs.

The research was not related to life insurance, but the results raise the question of whether education could become part of the criteria for establishing premiums.

Stay in school, live longer

According to the study, those with fewer years of formal education have significantly shorter life spans. Americans who have not completed high school can expect to live not much longer than adults in the 1950s and 1960s did.

In addition, the study results showed the disparities were even more significant when race was taken into account. Among the report's findings:

  • In 2008, white men with more than 16 years of schooling outlived black men with less than 12 years of schooling by 14.2 years.
  • At the same time, white women with more than 16 years of schooling had life expectancies 10.3 years longer than black women with less than 12 years of education.
  • The life expectancy for white women with less than 12 years of schooling actually dropped from 78 years in 1990 to 73 years in 2008.

The study authors note these gaps have widened over time, and they call for better education to address the issue.

How life insurance rates are calculated

Insurers use a variety of factors to determine the level of risk you pose. The higher the risk, the higher the premium you pay.

Some of the factors life insurance companies use today are:

  • Age
  • Health status
  • Family health history
  • Hazardous hobbies
  • Smoking status
  • Driving record

Life insurance companies don't currently consider education level as one of the standard criteria for underwriting. But if they move in that direction, affordable life insurance may be one more reason to stay in school.