Our Partners’ Education Can Positively Impact Our Individual Health, Shows Study
Picture this: your spouse works at an organization that provides them with health benefits that you can access too. They landed the job, in question, based on their educational qualifications. So, in a way, it’s their education that has afforded you better medical care — and, by extension, better individual health.
Published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, a new study highlights a link between better individual health in people and higher levels of education in their partners.
To arrive at the findings, the researchers relied on data from a study involving graduating high school seniors in Wisconsin, USA in 1957, who were consequently surveyed at different points of time leading to 2011. The participants answered questions about their smoking habits and their health prior to marriage. They also categorized their present-day health into five categories — “very poor”, “poor”, “fair”, “good” or “excellent.”
The correlation depended, of course, on any given individual’s ability to share their resources with their partners — but overall, the researchers were able to find a positive link between a person’s education level and the health of their spouse.
Education — oneself’s or that of a family member, like one’s mother — has always been known to positively impact one’s health.
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“Education improves health because it increases effective agency, enhancing a sense of personal control that encourages and enables a healthy lifestyle. Education’s beneficial effects are pervasive, cumulative, and self-amplifying, growing across the life course,” a 2005 study states.
Besides highlighting the impact of education on health, the study also indicates how one partner’s knowledge, skills, and finances can serve as shared resources in the relationship.
“[H]igh levels of education provide shared social, intellectual, emotional, and financial resources… — things like higher levels of emotional intelligence, particular skills or knowledge, or more money,” an article by the British Psychological Society (BPS) explains, adding that “although an individual’s own level of education is clearly important for their health, they also reap the benefits of their partner’s education.”
One significant limitation of this study, however, is the time its data is from. Perhaps, due to lower levels of educational achievements in women at the time, a gender difference eclipsed the findings: women, on average, were found to have derived greater health benefits from their male spouse’s education.
“[T]he time period of the study may limit its generalizability to more modern relationships. Future work on this topic could explore whether the increased effect [on] women would still persist in today’s somewhat more equal world,” BPS concludes.