The Association between Education and Mortality for Adults with Intellectual Disability

J Health Soc Behav. 2017 Mar;58(1):70-85. doi: 10.1177/0022146516683227. Epub 2017 Jan 5.


Although the relationship between education and mortality is well documented in the general population, it has not been examined for adults with intellectual disability. Informed by fundamental cause theory, I explore the association between education and mortality in a sample of 4,241 adults with intellectual disability from the 1986-2009 National Health Interview Survey with Linked Mortality Files through 2011. Cox regression models were utilized to analyze the predictive effect of education on mortality risk while taking into account birth cohort differences. Increased education was associated with lower mortality risk for adults with intellectual disability, and this relationship strengthened in later birth cohorts who had greater access to the public education system. Comparison with a sample of 21,205 adults without intellectual disability demonstrates that the association between education and mortality risk was not as robust for adults with intellectual disability and highlights the ongoing socioeconomic challenges faced by this population.

Keywords: birth cohort; education; fundamental cause theory; intellectual disability; mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Educational Status
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / mortality*
  • Mortality
  • Risk Factors