The life expectancy of less educated whites decreased dramatically between 1990 and 2008: Four years on average, with three for men and a whopping five for women, a study finds. "We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling," says an expert. The study examined data among people without high school diplomas. During the same period, life expectancy climbed among blacks and Hispanics without diplomas, the New York Times reports.
Education levels present a huge divide in longevity. White women without diplomas had a life expectancy of 73.5 years; for white women with a college degree or higher, it was 83.9. For white men without high school diplomas, the figure was 67.5 years; with a college degree or higher, it was 80.4. Among the threats to less educated white women are soaring prescription drug overdoses and increased smoking rates. And as of 2006, some 43% of less educated, working-age men and women lacked health insurance. (Read more education stories.)