Education and health Publications
Education contributes to wider wellbeing beyond better employment and earning prospects. This short report explores how education is related to health, using one measure of health, self-reported assessment of overall health.
Author(s): David Scott, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis, Ministry of Education
Date Published: January 2021
Education is positively and strongly related to health, as measured by self-reported health status. The higher the level of your educational attainment, the more likely you are to report better health. Someone with no qualification is three times more likely to consider themselves in poor or only fair health than someone with a degree.
This holds for both men and women. Generally speaking, there was little difference in the levels of health reported by men and women with the same level of education.
Adults aged 25 to 44, generally speaking, had similar levels of self-reported health as similarly educated adults aged 45 to 64. But some differences were present. In particular, adults aged 45 to 64 with Level 4 qualifications were nearly twice as likely to report poor or only fair health compared with similarly educated adults aged 25 to 44. This may reflect the trade-related nature of work that many of those with Level 4 qualifications are likely to engage in over their lifetime.
Every country in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows this same positive relationship. New Zealand’s overall level of self-reported health is higher than many other countries, and notably, the difference in self-reported levels of health between the least- and most-educated is one of the smallest in the OECD.
Higher levels of education have also been shown to be associated with other measures of health such as higher life expectancy, and lower levels of smoking, obesity, disability and depression.
Percentage of 25 to 65-year-olds reporting either good, very good or excellent health by education, across OECD countries (2012, 2015)
Source: Ministry of Education analysis of OECD PIAAC data. Refer report for further detail.