Students dropping out of high school should be treated as a public health emergency, according to new research.
Dr Bret Hart, adjunct clinical associate professor in health sciences at Curtin University, referred to US research that revealed a 12-year difference in average life expectancy between high school drop-outs and university graduates.
“By contrast, the difference in life expectancy between someone who smokes 30 cigarettes a day and someone who has never smoked is just six years,” Perth Now quoted Dr Hart as saying.
“And elevated cholesterol is associated with just a six-month drop in life expectancy.”
On Friday, Dr Hart will argue teachers are better than doctors at prolonging life when he delivers the opening address at a Perth conference hosted by Well-being in Schools Australia (WISA).
Dr Hart, who is also the WISA chairman, said action to ensure students achieve graduation has “more impact on health than the provision of medical services”.
“Australian schools must develop, in young students, a strong wellbeing ethos, life practices and survival skills in the face of increasing and more complex student health and well-being needs,” he said.
WISA chief executive, Jac Van Velsen, told Perth Now that stress was a major contributing factor to students dropping out of high school.
“One in four students experiences violence at home, one in five goes to school hungry each week, one in six lives below the poverty line, and one in four students, in Years 4 to 9, is bullied,” she said.
“No wonder 25% of young people face serious mental health issues that can lead to them dropping out of school, and facing a lifetime of challenges and risks.”