It's well known that individuals who are more highly educated tend to be healthier, since they often have access to better health care and are more equipped to pay higher medical costs. But a new report shows that even when people with differing levels of education have the same health care options at their disposal, the best-educated individuals remain the healthiest.
The report, released earlier this month by Virginia Commonwealth University's Center on Society and Health, uses data from health insurance provider Kaiser Permanente to analyze how education influences health outcomes. Kaiser Permanente surveyed adults from its Northern California branch, whose members have access to the same network of health care providers and similar overall care.
The data showed that individuals with more education consistently exhibited better health than those with lower education levels. However, the statistics only controlled for broadly similar health care plans, and did not address factors such as how often people went to doctors or the type of medical care they accessed.
An earlier report from the center, released in April, suggests some other reasons why highly educated individuals are healthier. Educated adults, the report notes, often have lower levels of stress, maintain larger social networks and live in healthier neighborhoods with more green space and better supermarkets.
The new study concludes that improved access to health care will not, on its own, eliminate the health disadvantage for less educated groups. "People with fewer years of education have worse health than those with more education -- even when they have the same access to health care," the paper says.
Better educated individuals reported higher levels of overall health:
Individuals with better levels of education were also less likely to say that they had physical ailments that interfered with their daily lives:
The report also looked specifically at individuals with diabetes. The data showed that even when diabetes patients had access to similar health care, those who were more educated had lower rates of death: