Better educated individuals live longer, healthier lives than those with less education, and their children are more likely to thrive. This is true even when factors like income are taken into account.
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 2017, about 10% of adults older than 24 had not graduated high school, and of those who had graduated high school, an additional 32% had no education beyond high school1. As of 2012, 14% of Americans had only basic literacy and 4% lacked even basic literacy2. 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 conditions3. Education is also connected to lifespan: on average, college graduates live nine more years than high school dropouts4.
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 downturns3.
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 conditions3.
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.
1 US Department of Commerce. Educational Attainment of the Population 18 Years and Over, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 2017. US Bureau of the Census; 2017.
2 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). OECD Skills outlook 2013: First results from the survey of adult skills. Washington, DC: OECD Publishing; 2013.
3 Egerter S, Braveman P, Sadegh-Nobari T, Grossman-Kahn R, Dekker M. Education and health. Exploring the Social Determinants of Health Issue Brief No. 5. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF); 2011.
4 Center on Society and Health. Education: It matters more to health than ever before. Richmond: Center on Society and Health, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU); 2014.
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