High Grades in High School Lead to Better Adult Health

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Having a higher education level is often linked to improved health in many clinical studies, seemingly because those who have more years of screening are more likely to have jobs with health insurance benefits and therefore are more likely to stay on top of annual checkups and preventative screenings. A new study shows that it isn’t only the quantity of education years that keep you healthy, but also the quality – those with better grades are more likely to be healthier adults.

The Higher the Class Rank, the More Likely to Be in Good Health at Retirement Age

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison analyzed data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which included more than 10,000 high school graduates from 1957. The cohort has been interviewed six times since they graduated 53 years ago, answering questions about work, life, family and health.

Read: Women's Health Insurance Linked to Education

Pamela Herd, study author and associate professor of public affairs and sociology found that those who had a higher rank in high school (meaning those with higher grades) were less likely to have experienced worsening health between 1992 and 2003, when they were approaching retirement age. They were also more likely to report fewer chronic conditions.

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The researchers suspect that the finding was at least partly explained by “conscientiousness”, meaning a conscientious student might simply be more diligent about taking care of his or her health and avoiding behaviors such as tobacco smoking. But without psychological data, says Herd, that link cannot be firmly established.

Read: Tying Education to Future Goals Boosts Grades

She also believes that skills such as critical thinking learned through high school academics leads to making wise healthcare decisions later in life. “What you learn in school may actually matter for your health,” Herd says.

The researchers hope that the findings could be used for public policy initiatives, such as emphasizing overall academic performance instead of just test scores. Herd also hopes it speaks to the importance of staying in school.

Source: American Sociological Association (ASA), The Journal of Health and Social Behavior

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