Better education and improved health

Better education could be linked to improved health, a new study has suggested. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the research found that people who attained at least a bachelor's degree after the age of 25 could enjoy enhanced wellbeing during their midlife years.

Dr Katrina Walsemann of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina - which has more than 200 years of history -  found that those in this age group who earned such an award had fewer symptoms of depression compared to individuals in the same demographic who had not studied to such a level.

According to Dr Walsemann, around 38 per cent of those trying to gain a degree are aged 25 or over, with a high number of people who earn their highest educational award falling into this group.

She stated: "The study has important implications for education and public health and how we think about policies to encourage people to pursue college degrees."

Professor Michael Hyland from Plymouth University, a Chartered Psychologist, commented: "There is a substantial body of research showing that better physical and psychological health on the one hand is associated with better education and social class on the other. 

"Physical and psychological health tend to correlate as do education and social class and all four variables correlate with each other.

"The important question is not whether this relationship occurs, but why it occurs.

"People with better education tend to engage in less health-harming behaviours, such as smoking. However, the effect of education on health cannot be explained entirely by biological factors and there is convincing evidence that psychological factors, such as better perceived control, are more important in explaining the link between education and health. 

"If better education leads to a person experiencing the world in a more benign and less threatening way, then education can have its effect through a well-established psychosomatic route. 

"Stress and other adverse circumstances leads to raised pro-inflammatory cytokines that are associated with disease causation and poor psychological health.  

"The educated person will tend to have less pro-inflammatory cytokines. Of course, it is not education which is the important part of the causal relationship but happiness. 

"Another body of research shows that longevity is associated with happiness and that the some of the communities where there is a higher proportion of centenarians are not so much educated, but contented with their lot."

Professor Tony Cassidy from the University of Ulster, who is also a Chartered Psychologist, added:

"Larger proportions of people who are better educated tend also to come from more affluent backgrounds or to attain better paid and higher status jobs both of which are generally predictive of better physical and mental health.

"Being better educated may also mean that individuals have more access to health information and may be more health literate which may partially explain the effect. In essence it is difficult to say that it is education per se that impacts on health or the social and economic advantages that education brings.

"One consistent finding is that mother’s education is a key factor in breaking from the intergenerational cycle of economic disadvantage and is related to all sorts of outcomes for children including health and well-being."