Perceived control reduces mortality risk at low, not high, education levels

Nicholas A. Turiano, Benjamin P. Chapman, Stefan Agrigoroaei, Frank J. Infurna, Margie Lachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Objective: Both higher levels of educational attainment and a strong sense of control over one's life independently predict better health and longevity. Evidence also suggests that these 2 factors may combine in multiplicative ways to influence subjective reports of health. Method: In the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) national sample (N = 6,135; age = 25 to 75 years), we tested whether stronger beliefs of control over one's life would moderate the effect of education on 14-year mortality risk. Results: Proportional hazards modeling indicated that both current levels of education and control beliefs were associated with lower risk of dying, over and above childhood socioeconomic level. In addition, there was a significant interaction between education and control beliefs. Among those low in education, higher control beliefs were associated with a decreased mortality risk. However, at greater levels of education, control beliefs were not associated with mortality risk. This effect remained after adjusting for potential confounding variables, including health behaviors, depressed affect, and general health (chronic illnesses, functional limitations, and self-rated health). Conclusions: These findings demonstrate the importance of individual perceptions of control in buffering the mortality risk associated with educational disadvantage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-890
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Control beliefs
  • Education
  • Health inequalities
  • Mortality
  • Social disadvantage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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