3 Surprising Benefits of Going to College

Posted By Eliana Osborn on January 5, 2016 at 9:10 am
3 Surprising Benefits of Going to College

Yes, a college degree means you’ll earn more money over your lifetime. It can also give you life experience, help you meet people, and explore your passions.  Of course, there are serious costs involved, but there are more benefits of a college education than you might think.

In fact, researchers are finding more and more positive outcomes related to attending or graduating from college. The Commission to Build a Healthier America says, “Education is linked with health through three major interrelated pathways: health knowledge and behaviors, employment and income, and social and psychological factors.”

Below are three ways having a higher education can improve your life beyond lifting your bottom line:

Stay married longer

The National Health Statistics Report is a compendium of all kinds of information.  Looking at data from 2006-2010, it discovered that college-educated women have a 78% chance of a two decades long marriage.  Women with just a high school diploma only show a 40% probability of hitting the twenty-year mark.

Going to college makes you more likely to get married in general.  The National Survey of Family Growth found that women with a master’s degree or higher were the most likely to marry, with 63%.  With a bachelor’s, 58% married, compared with 37% of women without a high school diploma or GED.  Men follow the same pattern: 66% for higher degrees, 49% with a BA, and 38% for those not finishing high school.

Age at first marriage is also higher for college graduates, on average.  Women with a bachelor’s degree only had a 37% likelihood of marrying by age 25, versus 53% for those who only completed high school.

Live longer

The more education you have, the longer you live.  That’s been the case for more than thirty years—pretty much since they started measuring it.  But the gap in longevity has been growing.  2013 research published by the American Sociological Association found that women who didn’t finish high school were dying younger than they had in the past.

The study looked at white women age 45 to 84.  Those without a high school diploma had an average life expectancy of 73 years in 2008 while those who finished 12 years of schooling were at 78.  Women with some college increased their longevity to 83, and 84 for those with a four-year degree.

You and your family live healthier

There’s a health insurance gap between women who didn’t finish high school and those who complete college.  That may account for some of the longevity differences and definitely plays a part in statistics about better health for those with more education.

Women with less than a high school diploma have higher rates of obesity and consume more alcohol, say researchers.  Men don’t exhibit significant differences in obesity based on education levels though.  For men and women, it is becoming harder to earn a middle-class income without a college degree.  By every measure, those with a stable income are healthier.

It isn’t just adults who are healthier with college.  The Centers for Disease Control reports that children living in a household where the head has a higher education have lower levels of obesity.  The difference is significant, decreasing from 22% to 7% for females and 24% to 11% for males.  Infant mortality rates are also improved when mothers have more education.

The National Bureau of Economic Research summarizes the various findings on education and health in this way:  “The more educated report having lower morbidity from the most common acute and chronic diseases (heart condition, stroke hypertension, cholesterol, emphysema, diabetes, asthma attacks, ulcer). More educated people are less likely to be hypertensive, or to suffer from emphysema or diabetes. Physical and mental functioning is also better for the better educated. The better educated are substantially less likely to report that they are in poor health, and less likely to report anxiety or depression. Finally, better-educated people report spending fewer days in bed or not at work because of disease, and they have fewer functional limitations.”

Whether you’re heading to college to pursue a dream or have a more level-headed career path in mind, you’re likely to have a better life because of it.  Decades of research show that the more education you attain, the fewer health risks you’ll face—especially for women.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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