Page last updated at 23:26 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 00:26 UK

Educated women 'aid long life'

Children in science class
A university education is important to longevity, the study suggests

A well-educated woman positively influences both her own and her partner's chances of a long life, Swedish research suggests.

A man whose partner had only a school education has a 25% greater risk of dying early than if she had had a university education, it suggests.

The authors say educated women may be more likely to understand the various health messages their families needed.

The findings are based on a study of 1.5m working Swedes, aged 30 to 59.

The study, in the journal of Epidemiology and Community Healthcare, says that in the case of men, it is their income and social status that affect women's lifespan.

The researchers looked at data from the 1990 Swedish census and followed up information on causes of death, including cancer and circulatory diseases like heart disease and stroke from the cause of death registers up to 2003.

University education

A woman's education and social status were more important for a man's life chances than his own education, the findings indicate.

And a woman's education also affects her own mortality, with someone with a school education having a 53% greater risk of dying early than a university educated woman.

The authors said: "Education is of great importance through a direct influence on mortality as well as indirectly via occupation and income.

"Education may also have an indirect effect through its possible importance for choice of partner."

Dr Robert Erikson, who led the research, said: "Women traditionally take more responsibility for the home than men do and, as a consequence, women's education might be more important for the family lifestyle - for example, in terms of food habits - than men' s education.

"It's still the case that women tend to put the food on the table and in that way have a very direct influence.

"Women with higher education may also receive better medical treatment and their partners may benefit too."

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, of the UK's Faculty of Public Health, said: "This study shows how closely education, lifestyle and long-term health are linked together.

"If we're serious about radically improving the health of the nation, we must fully invest in high-quality education at all levels."

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