Go to school – it’s good for you!

25 May


It has long been known that higher education is associated with better health.  The World Health Organization says that low education levels are linked with poor health, more stress and lower self-confidence.

To facilitate measurement, most studies about education and health use information about formal education.  Surveys will ask participants to list the highest level of formal education they’ve completed.

The truth is formal education is not the only education that’s beneficial.  One of the reasons education improves health is because of an increase in knowledge about healthy food and lifestyle choices.  That means that any new knowledge gained has the potential to improve your health status – whether the knowledge was gained through a college education or through reading, educational TV or even just good conversation with knowledgeable friends.

Another well known determinant of health is income.  This is where the formal education comes in handy.  Typically those with a college or university education earn higher incomes than those with only a high school education.  Higher income people are typically healthier.

People with more income can afford to choose healthy foods at the grocery store – even if they cost more.  And if they are educated in the subject they will know which foods to choose.

People with more income can afford to fill their prescriptions, and go to medical appointments.  I have seen situations in which lower income people, to save money, would only purchase half their prescription, then they would just take half the daily dose recommended by their physician.  Sometimes changing the dose can completely change the way the drug works.  Sometimes a little is not better than nothing.  If you cannot afford a drug that has been prescribed for you, it’s important to discuss this openly with your doctor.  There may be alternatives that are more affordable.  I have also seen people miss medical appointments altogether because they have no affordable means of transportation to get there.

People with more income can afford better housing.  Sometimes the less expensive housing is not well built, or has not been well maintained.  These homes can be cold and drafty, they can contain contaminants such as mold and asbestos and they are sometimes located in neighbourhoods with higher crime rates.  It’s hard to maintain good health if your home is not safe.

The bottom line is if you have enough education to make healthy decisions for yourself and your family, and you have the income to support those healthy decisions, you are likely among the healthiest people.  If you need some ammunition to talk your kid (or yourself) into finishing school or signing up for university or college, maybe this will help.  Even if formal education is not for you at this point in your life – always keep learning!

For more on the determinants of health see:

The World Health Organization


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