Learning to be healthy: How leaving school early could be detrimental to your health

By Matthew Abbott

Education could be the key to a healthy heart, according to new research.

A study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) shows that students who leave school without any qualifications can expect to suffer a greater risk of heart disease.

Men are especially vulnerable with a 4% rise in heart disease for those who leave school without any qualifications.

However, the study says that those who return to education in later life can reduce this risk and narrow the health gap between themselves and their more educated peers.

University of Manchester professor Tarani Chandola, who carried out research on the data of 4,311 adults born in 1958, said: “Health inequalities are a major concern in the UK and elsewhere. 

“Although this study does not prove that returning to education as an adult automatically improves your health, we do provide some hope to many who leave school without any qualifications.”

Professor Chandola found that those who left school without any qualifications but who returned to education in later life had a 3% lower risk of heart disease.

He said that there were similar, although smaller, effects among women.

Judy O’Sullivan, a Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study adds to a significant and growing body of evidence that links your education with your risk of developing heart disease.”

Adding: “It’s appalling that where you live, how much you earn, or how educated you are can still determine your health.”

Around 14% of the adults who took part in the study went on to obtain qualifications between the ages of 23 and 42.

David Ellison, a councillor for Didsbury’s West ward and member of the council’s Health and Scrutiny Committee, agrees with the study.

Speaking to Mancunian Matters he said: “A city like Manchester that suffers great deprevation, unemployment and poor education is bound to suffer from poorer health as a direct result.

“The poorer the wards, the poorer the health. It’s a complicated matter of improving educational attainment at a time when nationwide reforms are making that quite difficult.”

Hannah Lannister, 36, a mature student at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “I feel more confident and mentally more challenged, but that’s not to say I’m not going to suffer from health problems in the future.

“Studies like this are being done all the time. It doesn’t make them fact.”

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