There are many paths to better health, including a daily yoga practice, eating only organic produce, and living on top of a mountain, but one path that feels considerably more mainstream than those options is getting a college degree. While researchers can’t fully explain why, data suggests that college graduates experience better health than peers with only a high school education or a smattering of college. So, if you’ve been toying with all the reasons why you should finish up your undergraduate degree, let your health and a longer life be one more reason you add to the list. Here is a look at a handful of ways in which a college degree and better health join forces in a college graduate’s life.
Lower Blood Pressure
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and high blood pressure is one of the largest predictors of developing it, which means that keeping your blood pressure sweet and low will keep you safer from the disease. Not smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining an ideal weight are all tried and true paths to keeping blood pressure within a safe range, but finishing a college degree is another way to lower your blood pressure — at least compared to people with only a high school degree.
When it comes to work-related stress, having a college degree provides a helpful buffer. Whether it’s due to the fact that people with college degrees can generally count on greater financial rewards, employment stability and benefits, or to the helpful way in which increasing your knowledge betters your overall ability to cope with the challenges and difficulties of life, when you finish your college degree, stress becomes less of a factor in your life. Less-educated workers report more work-related stress, financial stress and overall stress than do workers with a college diploma.
The more educated a person gets, the healthier her behaviors becomes. Perhaps this is why only 9 percent of adults with a college diploma smoke cigarettes, compared to 34 percent of individuals with a high school diploma or less, and 21 percent of individuals with some college education but no degree. And because smoking is related to higher risks for all kinds of health difficulties, from cancer to heart disease, anything that helps you kick the habit — like getting your bachelor’s degree — is a boon to your overall health and longevity.
Regular exercise is linked to a host of health benefits that include everything from staving off dementia to lowering your risk for developing diabetes, and yet most Americans still lack the motivation to engage in it on a regular basis. Americans with a college degree, however, report greater levels of exercise than their not-as-educated counterparts. In fact, according to a recent College Board Education Pays report, 63 percent of all college graduates surveyed exercise vigorously at least once a week, compared to only 37 percent of people without a college degree.
A Longer Life
Most people would like to live a long, healthy and fulfilling life, and while accidents do happen, aiming at behaviors that are known to promote health is a good way to try and achieve that, and one of those behaviors turns out to be getting a college degree. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people with a college degree live an average of nine more years than people without a high school diploma, and the more education you get, the better your long life prospects become.
While it doesn’t always make everyone’s list of healthy traits, being happy is actually a great predictor of health and overall life satisfaction, and it turns out that people with a college degree report greater levels of happiness than people with less education. So, if you’re looking for a path of personal fulfillment that includes happiness, a bachelor’s degree is a good place to start.
Lower Infant Mortality Rates
The infant mortality rate in America is one of the highest in the industrialized world, and while it’s still low compared to our pioneer days, one contributing factor seems to be a mother’s education. Babies born to women with only a high school education or less are twice more likely to die in the first year of their lives than babies born to women with a college degree or higher.
When it comes to having good career prospects and making enough money, most people would argue that a college degree is necessary, but it turns out that the benefits of a college education extend to physical and emotional health as well.