News | July 13, 2012
Virginia Zarulli from the Laboratory of Survival and Longevity has successfully defended her PhD thesis „Frailty Models in the Analysis of Socioeconomic Differences in Mortality Application to mortality by education level in Turin“ on July 11, 2012, at the University La Sapienza in Rome.
People with less education have a higher mortality risk than people with more education. However, this gap appears to shrink significantly at older ages, when the mortality rates of the two groups start to converge. This phenomenon could mean that the positive influence of higher education fades at older ages, or it could represent a statistical artifact: the convergence of the death rates may be caused by the premature deaths of the most endangered individuals of the less educated group, such as people who work in dangerous professions, or those who have unhealthy lifestyles. Virginia Zarulli investigates this question in a new study. Using mathematical “frailty models,” it is possible to determine which explanation for the apparent decline in the effect of education is correct. Zarulli applied these models to mortality data from the Italian city of Turin. Based on this dataset, she provided evidence to support the assumption that, if we take into account that the people with the highest risk levels die at the youngest ages, the positive influence of higher education remains even in old age, and the observed convergence of the death rates is largely a statistical artifact.