Why Is Education Important to Health?
More schooling is linked to higher incomes, better employment options, and increased social supports that, together, support opportunities for healthier choices. Yet in 2014, about 12% of adults older than 24 had not graduated high school, and another 30% had no education beyond high school . As of 2012, 14% of Americans had only basic literacy and 4% lacked even basic literacy . Many more also lack health literacy, making it difficult to navigate health care.
Higher levels of education can lead to a greater sense of control over one’s life, which is linked to better health, healthier lifestyle decisions, and fewer chronic conditions . Education is also connected to lifespan: on average, college graduates live nine more years than high school dropouts .
Researchers estimate that each additional year of schooling leads to about 11% more income annually. Higher paying jobs are more likely than lower paying jobs to provide workers with safe work environments and offer benefits such as health insurance and sick leave. More educated workers also fare better in economic downturns .
Parental education is linked to children’s health and educational attainment. Children whose mothers graduated from college are twice as likely to live past their first birthday. Stress and poor health early in life, common among those whose parents have lower levels of education, is linked to decreased cognitive development, increased tobacco and drug use, and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and other conditions .
Communities and educators can work together to increase educational attainment for children and adults, better preparing the individuals and families of today and tomorrow to live long, healthy lives.