Healthier, wiser: understanding the social outcomes of learning

Everyone accepts that education is vital for a healthy economy, but now there is strong evidence that it contributes to a healthy body too. Understanding the Social Outcomes of Learning makes the claim that those with more schooling also tend to have better health, as well as more civic engagement.

In fact, evidence suggests that better education leads to less smoking, obesity and depression, and also a lower mortality rate. The OECD report cites one study showing that an additional year of schooling reduces the probability of dying in the next decade by 3.6%, and a Swedish study that an extra year of education reduces the risk of bad health by 18.5%. A US study shows that an additional year of schooling increases the amount of exercise taken by 34 minutes per two weeks, raises weekly strenuous exercise from 2.9 to 3.0 days per week, and boosts walking from 3.2 to 3.4 days per week.

Not all learning induces good health or healthy behaviour, the authors warn. Perhaps surprisingly, educated people consume more alcohol than the less educated. And while education appears to be protective against depression, it has much less impact on general happiness or well-being, and can cause stress and anxiety. In 2005, the British Medical Journal reported that suicides are generally higher among more educated people.

Understanding the Social Outcomes of Learning lists other benefits of education, such as political stability, poverty reduction and less water and air pollution. In short, though a student cramming for the next morning’s final exam paper might not believe you, early to bed means more time for education, more wealth and more health.

A companion report which provides more detailed analysis is free to download at www.oecd.org/edu/socialoutcomes/symposium.

ISBN: 9789264033108                

©OECD Observer No 263, October 2007




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