I am often asked, if I could choose just one policy intervention to improve health what would it be? The more I reflect on this question, the more convinced I am that the answer is to invest in quality education for all children, with special emphasis on education in early childhood. Education helps us live longer, think better, and be healthier. As graduation season is upon us, here are a few reflections on the central role of education in shaping our physical and mental health.
Study after study has shown that the higher our education level, the longer we will potentially live and the healthier those years are likely to be. College graduates live almost nine years longer than those who did not graduate from high school. Those years of higher education can also lead to a range of health benefits, including a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The health effects of education are also intergenerational—the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births for mothers who did not graduate from high school is close to double that of women who earned college degrees.