Americans with more education live longer and have healthier lives, according to the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. Preparing for higher education during primary and secondary school years lays the foundation for future success. The link between education and health is complex and can move in both directions. Here are three examples that show how education and overall health and well-being are closely connected.
Education leads to better jobs and higher income which also leads to company-provided health insurance. Families with higher incomes can more easily purchase healthy foods, have time to exercise regularly and pay for health services. They are also more likely to have their own transportation. Less education, on the other hand, is associated with job insecurity, lower wages—or worse, unemployment—and lack of resources to make healthy decisions. All of this makes individuals and their families more vulnerable.
In addition to better jobs and a stable income, people with higher education are more likely to learn about healthy behaviors. The Center on Society and Health reports that educated patients are better able to understand their health needs, follow instructions, advocate for themselves and their families, and communicate effectively with health providers. This puts them at an advantage when it comes to adopting healthier behaviors and lifestyles.
Poor health also can cause educational setbacks and interfere with schooling. Research shows that childhood stress—what we call Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—can affect brain development as well as social, emotional and cognitive development. Even more, adverse childhood events impact health and nutrition and are often linked to the presence of other chronic conditions later in life.
The tie between education and health is undeniable. The education we receive from the time we are small children through adulthood plays a significant role in our ability to live a healthy life. Education has become one of the clearest indicators of life outcomes. That’s because it is the foundation for a range of skills, such as self-sufficiency, problem-solving and personal control. It’s no surprise that studies have shown that the more education we have, the more likely we are to have better health outcomes—and even live longer.