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Why Go to College? Study Suggests College Grads are in Better Health

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Research has found that a college degree can dramatically increase lifetime earning potential, but a bigger paycheck isn’t the only benefit of going to college. Higher education is also linked to better overall health and a longer life expectancy.

College Educated Americans Expected to Live Longer

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, released May 16, reports that people who have a bachelor’s degree or higher live an average of nine years longer than people did not graduate from high school. Health, United States, 2011 is the CDC’s 35th annual comprehensive health report, explains TIME Healthland.

CBS News reports that the CDC used data from both government and private resources to study the health habits of Americans. According to the study, in 2006 twenty-five-year-old men who did not have a high school diploma had a life expectancy of 9.3 years less than men with a bachelor’s or more advanced degree. Likewise, 25-year-old women without high school diplomas had a life expectancy of roughly 8.6 years less than women of the same age with at least a bachelor’s degree.

College Degrees Linked to Better Health for Parents and Children

Data from 2010 found that 31 percent of American adults with high school diplomas or less were smokers. Just nine percent of adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher had the unhealthy habit. Findings also show that one-fourth of women aged 25 and other who have a bachelor’s degree were obese, compared with 39 to 42 percent of women with less education.

The report also found that parents’ education levels affect their children’s weight and health. Between 2007 and 2010, heads of households who held at least a bachelor’s degree were less likely to have obese children. In homes led by parents with a high school diploma or less, 24 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls were obese, compared to 11 percent of boys and 7 percent of girls who lived with college educated adults.

According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity—or having too much body fat—increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis and even some cancers.

Better Health among College Graduates is Not a New Trend

Education and income are generally connected, but it is possible to be poor despite having an advanced degree, reminds Bloomberg Businessweek. The CDC report found an increase of young people going without health insurance or necessary medications for financial reasons.

USA Today reports that better health among higher-educated people isn’t a new trend. In 2009, US News reported that Americans who did not graduate from high school were 2.5 times more likely to describe their health as “not very good” compared to college graduates.

“Highly educated people tend to have healthier behaviors, avoid unhealthy ones and have more access to medical care when they need it. All of these factors are associated with better health,” Amy Bernstein, a health services researcher for the National Center for Health Statistics and the report’s lead author, told the media. People with lower incomes often live in less healthy communities with limited access to healthy foods and fewer places to exercise.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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