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 Staying Younger Through Lifelong Learning 

 

Something you probably never learned in school is that education level and lifelong learning may actually make you younger.  People who are better educated tend to stay younger longer.  In fact, those who donít have a high school education are 30% more likely to die prematurely than those who are high school graduates.  Mortality rates are even lower for individuals with some college education or higher. 

Although there doesnít appear to be any cause and effect relationship between what you studied and your health (calculus will not lower your LDL cholesterol) statistics have found that education has an affect on an individualís life trajectory.  Some of these reasons may be purely economic because individuals with more education are more likely to have better paying jobs and better financial stability.  Also, they often have higher socioeconomic standing, better access to health care, less exposure to occupational risks and have various other benefits that may actually effect the rate of aging. 

In contrast, individuals with lower levels of education are often poorer, have riskier and more tedious jobs, live in areas of higher pollution, and tend to make less healthy lifestyle choices. People who do not have a high school education are eight times more likely to smoke and are also more likely to be overweight, avoid exercise and eat unhealthy foods. Researchers use educational levels to gauge the entire social world of individuals, because various opportunities and limitations, as well as social and health behaviors correlate so highly with education. 

The effect of education on our health and aging is enormously complex, and we will probably never totally untangle the web. One of the problems is that the data are too imprecise. Although studies try to adjust for confounding variables such as income, social class and social stress, higher education still seems to produce an aging benefit.  Most of us know people who have a high level of education and donít make a lot of money.  Some of these people have doctorates in theology and other areas that are really not commensurate in terms of income and education.  These people tend to stay younger longer, possibly because they truly love what they do. 

What is really behind this correlation between education and health no one really seems to know for sure. One theory is that education actually increases access to information, with part of the information being information related to health.  People who read more are much more likely to pay attention to news, to think about their health, to exercise, eat right and avoid habits that cause needless aging. 

Next, weíll look at how education actually helps the brain to stay younger.

Information adapted from The Real Age Makeover 

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Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate                                      

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