Impact of Education Levels on Health and Lifestyle

Aging and Learning

books on the table

There are many sayings about how one could get younger, but this one, you probably don't hear often: going to school and learning make you younger. People who are better educated tend to stay younger much longer. Actually, those who don't have a high school education are 30 percent more likely to die untimely than those who are high school graduates. Mortality rates are even lower for those having some college education or higher. A better-educated spouse makes you younger as well.

There's no straight cause-and-effect relationship from what you studied and your health. Mastering calculus does not lower your LDL cholesterol, and flunking high school French doesn't put you at bigger risk for stroke. Instead, these statistics result from a set of specifics related to levels of education and the manner education can affect an individual's life trajectory. Some of these causes are strictly economic, since individuals having more education are more likely to have better jobs and greater financial stability. They often have higher socio-economic standing, less exposure to occupational hazards, better access to health care, and a full range of different benefits that help ease the rate of aging.

In contrast, individuals having lower levels of education are often poorer, have more unsafe and tedious jobs, live in areas where pollution levels are higher, and tend to pick out less healthy lifestyle choices. People who do not have a high school education are 8 times more likely to smoke, and are more likely to be overweight, fend off exercise, and eat unhealthy foods. Educational levels are employed by researchers to gauge a whole social world, since opportunities, limitations, social and health behaviors correlate with education.

The impact of education on our health and youth is staggeringly complex, and no study would ever totally untangle the web. For starters, the data are too imprecise. In spite of the problems in correlating degree of education with health, most of the studies try to adjust for confounding variables like income, social class, and social stresses. All the same, even when variables are calculated, a higher level of education still produces a benefit. Everyone perhaps know people who have high levels of education and don't make a lot of money; think of the people who have spent years training to be actors in the theater, or getting doctorates in theology, despite anticipating salaries that will not be commensurate. Such people tend to stay younger longer, since they truly love what they do.

Just what is behind this correlation between education and health? One theory is that education steps-up access to information, and a portion of that information is health information. Individuals who read more are also more expected to pay attention to the news; to consider their health; and to exercise, eat right, and fend off habits that can cause needless aging.

Other reasons may be related to the issue of thinking on the active cells in the brain, the neurons. Mental activeness is something, like muscular strength, that decreases with age if we don't use it. However, the fluctuation from one person to another is tremendous. A few people lose that acuity quickly; others retain a rapier wit and a capacity to engage in clever repartee until they die at age 90. So, it is hard to talk about average trends since a lot of people defy the trends. Whether you exercise your neurons or your muscle, you appear to be doing the same thing, causing yourself and the cells you exercise younger.