Does Better Education Mean Better Health?

education is associated with better health outcomes but trying to figure out whether it actually causes better health is tricky that's the topic of this week's healthcare triage people with at least some college education and mortality rates deaths per 1000 individuals per year less than half of those without any college education according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in addition people who are more educated exhibit less anxiety and depression have fewer functional limitations and are less likely to have a serious health condition like diabetes cardiovascular disease or asthma but causality runs both ways people in poor health from a young age may be unable to pursue education as much as those with better health on the other hand a person who tends to focus on long term outcomes may be motivated to develop healthier habits like regular exercise even if blocked from a pursuit of higher education some clever studies have teased out the causal effects of Education by exploiting natural experiments won by the UCLA economist Adriana Lara's Mooney relied on state compulsory education laws enacted between 1915 and 1939 these laws required some children to obtain more education than they might have otherwise resulting in longer lives for those that did so according to the study having an additional year of education by 1960 increased life expectancy at age 35 by 1.7 years studies that relied on inducements for greater education because of a poor labor market or as a way to avoid the Vietnam draft found that increased education led to better health and a lower likelihood of smoking this finding is one clue about how education may improve health it can reduce people's engagement and risky behaviors perhaps because these behaviors could threaten the higher income the greater education typically confers but health behaviors can explain only a portion of the relationship between education and mortality education may also provide skills to analyze information and tackle complex problems precisely what's needed to navigate the modern health system and attend to chronic diseases higher level of education is also associated with higher income and greater wealth which are also correlated with better health again causality goes both ways you have to be reasonably healthy to keep a job or to work long hours for example but higher income often comes with better health insurance and easier access to health care much of incomes effect on health may originate in childhood many studies demonstrate the children of wealthier parents are better health perhaps because of better access to prenatal care and nutrition or because they live in less polluted environments healthier childhood often means a healthier adulthood and children born to higher income parents are more likely to obtain more education and have higher incomes themselves that's how the income health relationship may propagate across generations greater education and wealth can also confer greater social status or rank which is also been linked to health a landmark study published in 1978 found that higher ranking British civil servants like administrators had lower rates of mortality due to coronary heart disease than lower ranking ones like messengers lower ranks civil servants tended to be heavier they had higher blood pressure and blood sugar and smoked more many investigations have replicated this relationship between social rank and health one study linked childhood poverty to chronic stress and subsequent reductions in memory which could affect education wage attainment and health even stress and Darden pregnancy can affect the health of the fetus in ways that endure throughout life research suggests health also varies by racial and ethnic identity which also tend to play a big role in social standing for example African Americans have higher rates of mortality than white Americans even after adjusting for income and education here too there are childhood origins African American infants are more likely to be born preterm and with lower birth weights one reason may be less access to prenatal care African American patients are also less likely to receive preventive health care and more likely to live in areas with lower quality hospitals and doctors disadvantages and stress stemming from a history of discrimination and community segregation underlie these and other disparities Hispanics tend to be healthier than comparable non-hispanic white Americans despite being poor on average the Hispanic paradox as it's known could be because Hispanic immigrants are typically in better health than Native US residents people who are healthier in the first place may be more likely to migrate or it could be because of health behaviors for example Hispanics are less likely to smoke or drink frequently than their non-hispanic white counterparts in this century there's been a sharp rise in so-called deaths of despair suicides drug overdoses or alcohol abuse for middle-aged white Americans without a college even as mortality rates for the poorly educated of risen the rates among those with some college education have held nearly steady or gone down since 2007 in 2012 researchers found that life expectancy for white women without a high school diploma was seventy three point five years compared with eighty three point nine years for white women with a college degree or more for white men it was sixty seven point five years for those without a diploma compared with eighty point four years for those with the college degree or better just as our health is affected by lifestyle genes the environment and the health system education as a role – we can't yet say exactly how much or exactly why but a decrease in longevity associated with lower education levels may help explain my overall American life expectancy has declined slightly in recent years and fallen well off the pace of progress of most other advanced nations Haeju enjoyed this episode you might enjoy this other episode on how racial disparities are still a big problem in medicine we'd especially like to thank our research associate Josephus and of course our surgeon Admiral Sam for their support of the show and you all can support the show at slash healthcare trips also in my book the bathroom Bibles on sale and paperback good way to support me by it


  1. I'm looking to do my dissertation into blockchain in healthcare – I've focused it more into 'patient data management'. Any tips on how to proceed, how to find good/free research papers, etc? I'm an undergraduate student.

  2. I have a BA and my hunny has a masters and under grad. He’s very healthy and I have depression, anxiety, and some minor health issues. Also he went to a college that is accredited, and while mine “was” it no longer is making my degree useless and 55k in student loan debt.

  3. When you have a masters of molecular biology but you have depression and anxiety. Lexipro is a God send.

  4. Aaron looks noticeably yellow-orange in his face. His face definitely looks different in color from his hands and neck. Maybe bad makeup?

  5. Given that Hispanic immigrants also tend to be more community oriented or socially engaged (particularly with family), that probably accounts for the gap.

  6. I wonder if someone who is not college educated but has a spouse that is highly educated with a high paying job would also reap the benefits of better health and a longer life. Any ideas?

  7. I wish I would have realized when I was younger the necessity of a high paying job w bennifits to survive this world, especially w persistant health issues. Education and a college degree makes it slightly more easier to obtain those things. Stay in school, it will help you afford your medication you need to live.

  8. Let me point out what some of the stats Dr. Carroll talked about mean for Social Security. White women without a high school diploma have Life Expectancy (LE) of 73.5 years compared to 83.9 for white women with a college degree or more. White men without a high school diploma have LE of only 67.5 compared to 80.4 years for white men with a college degree.
    When we're urged to RAISE the age of eligibility for Social Security this is a tremendous hit to people without high school diplomas, most of whom have much more physically demanding jobs than people with college degrees. Think about what socioeconomic standing means to those who have to engage in physically demanding labor instead of a well paying desk job.

  9. Depends on what you mean by “educated”. Theres a ton of people online that read a ton of articles, and think that constitutes education and then go around acting like they know things. I see people doing that almost every day. Some times I question if the internet actually ever educates people or if it just spreads so much misinformation that it all cancels out.

  10. Though it's all on averages. I've got a master's degree and sometimes it feels like anxiety is the only thing keeping me going. :B

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