Higher Education, Income Levels Keys to Better Health: Report

In households where the head of household had less than a high school education, 24 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls were obese.

People with higher levels of education and higher income have lower rates of many chronic diseases compared to those with less education and lower income levels, according to Health, United States, 2011—the government’s annual comprehensive report on Americans’ health.

Health, United States, 2011 is the 35th annual report prepared by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, and includes a compilation of health data through 2010 from a number of sources within the federal government and in the private sector.

This year’s edition features a special section on socioeconomic status and health. Among the highlights:

  • In 2007-2010, higher levels of education among the head of household resulted in lower rates of obesity among boys and girls 2-19 years of age. In households where the head of household had less than a high school education, 24 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls were obese. In households where the head had a bachelor’s degree or higher, obesity prevalence was 11 percent for males aged 2-19 years and 7 percent for females.
  • In 2007-2010, women 25 years of age and over with less than a bachelor’s degree were more likely to be obese (39 percent-43 percent) than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher (25 percent). Obesity prevalence among adult males did not vary consistently with level of education.
  • In 2010, 31 percent of adults 25-64 years of age with a high school diploma or less education were current smokers, compared with 24 percent of adults with some college and 9 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Overall, in the same year, 19 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and over were current cigarette smokers, a decline from 21 percent in 2009.
  • Between 1996-2006, the gap in life expectancy at age 25 between those with less than a high school education and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 1.9 years for men and 2.8 years for women. On average in 2006, 25-year-old men without a high school diploma had a life expectancy 9.3 years less than those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Women without a high school diploma had a life expectancy 8.6 years less than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of children with a family income below 200 percent of poverty level who were uninsured decreased from 22 percent to 11 percent-13 percent. The percentage with a family income at 200 percent to 399 percent of the poverty level who were uninsured decreased from 9 percent to 7 percent, and children with a family income at 400 percent of the poverty level who were uninsured decreased from 3 percent to 2 percent.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • In 2010, half of adults 18 years of age and over failed to meet both the aerobic activity and the muscle-strengthening federal physical activity recommendations. Older adults were less likely than younger adults to meet the federal physical activity recommendations—39 percent of adults 18-24 years of age did not meet the recommendations versus 70 percent of adults aged 75 and over.
  • The percentage of women 40 years of age and over who had a mammogram in the past two years remained steady at 67 percent to 70 percent during the 10-year period from 2000 to 2010. During the same period, the percentage of adults aged 50-75 years with a recent colorectal test or procedure increased from 34 percent to 59 percent.

The report is available at www.cdc.gov/nchs.

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