Educated People Tend to Have Better Health

A study finds poverty and lack of education were linked to shorter life spans and more chronic diseases.

Posted: 05/18/2012 12:52 PM EDT

Staying in school has many benefits, including living a longer, healthier life.

A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the more education and the more money you have, the more likely it is that you will live a healthier life. Also, the same report that looked at data from 2007-2010 found that people with more money suffer from fewer chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

These particular findings speak to the health of African-Americans, given that we not only are disproportionately poor in the U.S., but we also bear the brunt of many of these chronic diseases.

According to HealthDay News, the CDC also found the following:

—Twenty-four percent of boys and 22 percent of girls were obese in homes where parents didn't graduate from high school.
—Eleven percent of boys and 7 percent of girls were obese in homes where parents had a college degree.
—As many as 43 percent of women aged 25 and older without a college degree are obese. Obesity among men did not change with education.
—Thirty-one percent of adults with a high school diploma or less are smokers, compared with 9 percent of those with a college degree.
—Men aged 25 with no high school diploma lived roughly nine years less than men with a college degree. For women, it was about eight years less. That's an increase in this disparity of about two years since 1996.
—More poor children in 2010 were insured than in 2000, with the uninsured rate dropping by 13 percent.
It's important to point out that simply having a diploma won’t necessarily affect your health, per se — it's the benefits that come with the diploma that play a factor in who is healthier and who is prone to be more sick. Having more money can mean being able to afford healthier foods, living in neighborhoods that offer healthier foods, being able to afford gym memberships, and having better access to health insurance, to name a few.

The report's lead author, Amy Bernstein, a health services researcher for the National Center for Health Statistics, told USA Today, "Highly educated people tend to have healthier behaviors, avoid unhealthy ones and have more access to medical care when they need it." She added, "All of these factors are associated with better health."

Researchers believe that placing more money in quality education may cost more now, but will save money in health costs down the road. Until that happens, Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, told HealthDay News that better health can happen if we are willing to make lifestyle changes.

"The greatest opportunity to enhance medical destiny resides in the realm of lifestyle behaviors — tobacco avoidance, healthful eating, routine physical activity," Katz said.

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(Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)