July 8, 2019

Untangling the Pathways Between Education and Health

By Austin Frakt

Education is strongly associated with health outcomes, but the pathways between them are less clear. Though there’s a lot we don’t know about the relationship, careful study has teased out some explanations.

Causality runs in both directions. Education can provide the skills to tackle complex problems and manage health, while, on the other hand, relatively good health is necessary to attend school and earn degrees.

A big piece of the education-health puzzle lies in the association between a higher level of education and higher income and wealth. Higher income affects health in many ways, and much of this effect may originate in childhood, increasing the likelihood that children live in better environments, achieve greater social status or rank, and experience less stress. This income effect in childhood produces health effects that last long into adulthood.

Read more about the education-health relationship in my recent Upshot post, which also covers the intriguing hypothesis about the health effects of stress induced by lower social standing.