We all know how important a well-rounded education is, but in recent years, research has been uncovering another very good reason to make sure that kids stay in school – good health.
And it’s not just a one-way street; education and health seem to propagate each other, with numerous studies showing that healthy living leads to improved cognitive function, which in turn leads to higher grades, and again, better health.
Here are five fascinating studies that demonstrate how education and good health tie in together.
A recent study from the University of Melbourne shows that just one extra year of school can significantly affect a person’s diet, exercise patterns and other health habits even long after they have finished their schooling.
The researchers found that one added year of compulsory education increased the health consciousness of adults by 17%, indicating that people are leading healthier lives as a direct result of more education.
Adults whose parents had less than 12 years of formal education showed more significant lifestyle improvements, which makes sense, of course, because parents with less education would have been less likely to pass on health conscious habits to their children.
A study by Harvard scientists shows that people with more than a high school education can expect to live up to seven years longer than their less educated counterparts.
To study this, the researchers used death certificate data along with census population estimates and data from the National Mortality Study. They found that life expectancy increases almost exclusively occurred among high-education groups.
Between 1980 and 1990, the life expectancy for highly educated people went up by nearly a year and a half, but only half a year for less educated individuals. In the following ten years the gap widened even further, and highly educated people saw their life expectancy increase by 1.6 years, while less educated people saw no changes at all.
We know that physical exercise can prevent heart disease, and cut the risk of diabetes and obesity, but a study by the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan demonstrates that physical exercise like running or brisk walking can also improve brainpower.
Further research by neuroscientists at Cambridge University suggests that exercise can even stimulate the growth of new brain cells. The study found that running promotes the growth fresh grey matter in the brain, and that a couple of days of running can result in the growth of hundreds of new brain cells.
Nutrition also plays an important role in learning and memory, and a study by the University of Bristol found that following a healthy; balanced diet can actually increase IQ levels.
By studying the eating habits of over 3,000 children who took part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and children, the researchers were able to establish a link between diets high in processed foods and lower IQs.
They found that health conscious diets that included plenty of salads, fruit and fish were associated with a higher IQ, while high fat, high sugar diets were linked to a lower IQ.
A study carried out by the university of Wisconsin-Madison shows that good grades in high school are linked to better health later in life.
The researchers studied links between educational attainment, academic performance, personality and psychological factors, and health in high school graduates. They found that the higher an individual’s high school performance was, the less likely they were to experience worsening health in their later years.
In short, the more education a person has, the more likely they are to make healthy lifestyle choices, and a healthier way of living means improved cognitive function, better grades and ultimately, a longer and happier life.