We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

stay in school

Low life expectancy for males who drop-out after the Junior Cert

The ESRI found a big gap between the life expectancy at age 20 and 35 for those with the lowest level of education and those with higher accolades.

RESEARCH FROM THE Economic and Social Research Institute shows that boys that have a lower education are more likely to die early.

The paper, ‘The Impact of Changes in Educational Attainment on Life Expectancy‘ in Ireland’ looks at the potential contribution of increasing educational attainment to the prospective improvement in life expectancy in Ireland over the next 50 years.

The lead author on the report is Professor John FitzGerald.

Life expectancy

The 2006 data, for which the research is based, shows that males who had a junior certificate level of education were grouped with those who had completed their Leaving Cert.

The findings show a big gap between the life expectancy at age 20 and 35 for those with the lowest level of educational attainment relative to the other categories.

Using the same 2006 data, it showed that males with primary and junior certificate education aged 20-34, 6.2 per cent would be expected to die before they reach the age of 35.

However, for those with a secondary education only 1.9 per cent would be expected to die. The “excess” death rate associated with only having primary level education relative to those with secondary education thus amounts to 4.3 percentage points – a very big excess.

The gap between the death rate for those with secondary education and third level education is much smaller at 0.8 percentage points.


For males in the 20 to 35 age group the “excess” deaths among those with limited education compared to the average for the population of the same age, is very significant.

The ESRI states that the lower life expectancy is manifested in different experiences for those aged between 20 and 34, adding that “just because low educational attainment is associated with lower life expectancy does not imply a causal relationship”.

The paper does argue however that it is probable that the early death of these males may be affected by a wide range of other demographic and health characteristics.

“Thus while the new data on life expectancy can be used to forecast changes in the population (because education and life expectancy are correlated) they cannot, on their own, be used to explain the “excess” deaths in the population today,” said the ESRI report.

In the future

The paper also forecasts that from 2011 to 2041, life expectancy could increase from 76.7 to 86.5 years for males and 81.5 to 88.2 for females.

The report adds that this is because the educational attainment of the older population today is very different from that for the cohort currently in their late twenties.

The educational attainment of the population as a whole will, inevitably, change greatly over the coming fifty years, stated the report.

“The current generation in their late twenties will gradually replace the older less well educated generations as they age. Given observed differences in life expectancy by level of education, this will be an important factor driving the expected increase in life expectancy over the coming half a century,” it stated.

“In turn the increase in the longevity of the population will result, not only in higher population levels, but also in a rising old-age dependency ratio. This will affect demand for public services, not least pensions and healthcare,” said the ESRI.

Column: Let’s change the language we use about older age>

Read:  Report shows quality of life in Ireland above EU average>

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.