Illiterate and Poor in Brazil Have Lower Life
Expectancy, Study Shows
By Kenna Brigham
School of Public
Illiteracy rates and income disparities negatively
affect life expectancy in Brazil, according to research
from the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study results
have implications for health policy planning in both
developed and developing countries. The study, "Income
Inequality, Illiteracy Rate and Life Expectancy in Brazil,"
appears in the August issue of the American Journal of
The study author, Erick Messias, a doctoral candidate
at the School of Public Health and an assistant professor
of psychiatry at the
of Medicine, said, "The study shows that the
association between education and life expectancy is not
restricted to the developed world, where the majority of
these studies have been completed."
Messias explained that Brazil has one of the most
uneven distributions of wealth in the world. He also said
that the study shows that with this extreme income
distribution there is still a gradient, showing the impact
of these imbalances in the life expectancy of the
Public data from the Brazilian Ministry of Health and
the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics were
used to assess associations in the Brazilian states and the
federal capital, Brasilia. Life expectancy ranged from
63.16 years in Alagoas to 71.34 years in Santa Catarina.
The illiteracy rate in Santa Catarina was 6.3 percent as
compared to 33.4 percent in Alagoas. High gross domestic
product per capita had a positive association with longer
life expectancy. States in Northeast Brazil had the worst
income distribution and illiteracy rate and the shortest
life expectancy, demonstrating important regional variation
across the country.
"Public health is influenced by several factors beyond
the usual scope of medical research," Messias said.
"Policy-makers should consider socioeconomic determinants
when thinking about the health of populations. Public
policies to improve health should include education as
increased education will impact health and life
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