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More Education, Better Health

People With More Education Report Better Health, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 6, 2009 -- Going back to school may belong on your to-do list for good health, because better health tends to go along with more education, a new report says.

The report comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Commission to Build a Healthier America.

The commission analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and CDC surveys conducted from 2005 to 2007, in which more than 174,000 U.S. adults 25-74 rated their own health as excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor.

Overall, 45% of participants reported their health as being less than very good. But education was a tipping point.

The more education people had, the more likely they were to report better health, regardless of race or ethnicity.

That difference didn't just show up when the commission compared people with the fewest and most years of schooling. Even a few years of education made a difference.

For instance, high school graduates were nearly twice as likely as college graduates to report being in less than very good health.

Why Education Matters

The commission's report, titled "Reaching America's Health Potential: A State-by-State Look at Adult Health," is all about the big picture. Of course, education doesn't guarantee good health.

But the report shows that education makes a difference when it comes to health.

"Education is a marker for an array of opportunities and resources that can lead people to better or worse health," David Williams, PhD, the commission's staff director, said in a news conference.

For instance, Williams says that a "poor education can lead to limited job options, lower incomes, and greater work-related stress. Down the road, that can limit a family's chances to live in a healthy home and neighborhood, increasing their exposure to harmful conditions and further emotional stresses that can lead to illness."

In contrast, "better educated people are more likely to have jobs that provide health insurance coverage, to be more knowledgeable about their health, and to have more time to attend to their health," Williams says. "We cannot separate education from health. A good education can lay the foundation for a healthy life."

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