Educating kids in rural South Africa helps keep their parents alive

The more years of formal schooling children in rural South Africa have, the better their parents’ life expectancy, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Researchers followed more than 17,000 parents in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, over a 13-year period. They found that among parents of children with 10-12 years of schooling, mothers were 26% less likely to die prematurely, and fathers 35% less likely to die prematurely, compared to parents of children with 7 or fewer years of schooling. The association was particularly significant for mothers at risk of communicable disease mortality and fathers at risk of injury mortality. They also found that one year of additional schooling was associated with an 8% reduction in both maternal and paternal death due to HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis.

The study was published online January 16, 2017 in Social Science & Medicine.

Authors Jan-Walter De Neve and Guy Harling, researchers in the Department of Global Health and Population, theorized that children are learning about health risks at school and sharing the information with their parents, which could make this a potential way for policy makers to address prevalent health problems in the region.

Read The Mercury coverage: Schooling benefits parent health