The links between education and health
A degree is more than just a scroll of paper. It's associated with better health outcomes too, according to several studies. Source: Anna-Rose Gassot/AFP

A college degree and one’s mortality would seem to have little to do with each other. One is an academic title conferred by colleges and universities upon the completion of a course of study; the other is the susceptibility to death.

While the former has proven to influence one’s career, salary and life trajectory, some clever studies have found links between higher education and better health outcomes.

Here’s what we know so far (Note: these studies show the association between education and health outcomes, but causality has not yet been proven):

1. Lower mortality rates

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mortality rates for those with at least some level of college education are less than half of those without any college education (deaths per 1,000 individuals per year).

Another, by UCLA economist Adriana Lleras-Muney, found that state laws requiring children to obtain a higher level education actually lengthened. Those who had one additional year of education by 1960 increased their life expectancy by 1.7 years at age 35.

2. Less mental health issues

Another independent report commissioned by the UK Presidency of the EU in 2006 found: “People with a lower level of education, a lower occupational class, or a lower level of income tend to die at a younger age, and to have a higher prevalence of most types of health problems.”

This includes higher suicide rates, particularly among men, as well as anxiety and depression.

3. Fewer functional limitations

The same report also found that since physical and mental health problems tend to be higher, so is the prevalence of functional limitations. Various forms of disability also tend to be higher.

4. Lower risk of serious health conditions

This refers to conditions like stroke, diseases of the nervous system, diabetes mellitus and arthritis – all of which are more prevalent among the lower socio-economic group. However, the same was not true in the prevalence of self-reported cancer, kidney diseases and skin diseases.

5. Lower likelihood of smoking

Source: Arun Sankar/AFP

Looking at data of draft avoidance during the Vietnam War, researchers found that more education – through more years in school or higher attainments – “reduces the probability of smoking at the time of the interview, more particularly the probability of smoking regularly”.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

How to instil healthy habits in kids

Should UK universities do more for students’ mental health?