The aim of the study, which is being published Thursday in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior, was to explain the growing gap in mortality between white women without a high school diploma and those with a high school diploma or more.
The study found that the odds of dying for the least educated women were 37 percent greater than for their more educated peers in any given year in the period of 1997 to 2001. The odds had risen to 66 percent by the period of 2002 to 2006. The authors controlled for age.
The researchers used a health survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, drawing on data from about 47,000 women ages 45 to 84. The study weighed more than a dozen factors to see which were causing the divergence in mortality rates. Poverty, obesity, homeownership, marital status and alcohol consumption were among the factors investigated.