Education and Health

A new study has found a correlation between a person's education level and their health. It says educated people are generally healthier than less educated people, and this has serious implications for the country's economic future, as Jim Bell reports.

The study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America is the first study to rank the states in terms of the health gap between their least and most educated citizens.  Dr. Sue Egerter of the University of California at San Francisco co-authored the study, and she says the results prove what they've long suspected. 

"People who have the least education, people who've not graduated from high school are less healthy than college graduates, but what we see is really a step-wise kind of pattern, where the more education you have the healthier you are."

Egerter says college grads generally tend to be more aware of what they need to do to stay healthy. So, they generally tend to have a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy diet and exercise. She says by contrast, high school grads and dropouts generally don't pay as much attention to their health, and their health isn't as good.  Egerter says availability of health insurance and health care is also important.

"I think one of the most important aspects of education is that we know that the kinds of jobs that people have opportunities to get, the more education you have, the better jobs you can get in terms of pay and in terms of benefits." 

Egerter says race and ethnicity influence a person's educational and employment opportunities, which influence income, lifestyle and access to health care, but, Egerter says the study still found minorities' overall health is in the same direct proportion to educational level as that of whites.

Which brings us to Texas.  Egerter says Texas ranks 45th in health of adults between 25 and 74. 50.1 percent of Texas adults surveyed say they are in less than very good health. Texas also ranks 45th in the size of the gap between the overall adult health rate and the health rate among the most educated adults. Only five states have a larger gap, and Egerter says is something policy makers really need to think about. 

"For the first time we're really looking at raising a generation who may not be as healthy and may not live as long as their parents, and we really need to be focusing on education, we need to start early with kids. And if we want to do something about health and we want a productive healthy workforce, we need to be thinking beyond health care and thinking of these other factors as well, and education is going to be a key."

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.