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Robert Hummer and Colleagues Explore Link Between Educational Attainment and Depression

Posted: February 23, 2012

In an article published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Public Health (vol. 102, pp. 557–563), Katrina M. Walsemann, Bethany A. Bell, and Robert A. Hummer, investigate whether completing a higher educational degree after age 25 is associated with lower levels of depression and better self-rated health at midlife compared to those who didn’t complete a higher educational degree. They found that, indeed, people who complete at least a bachelor’s degree after age 25 have better health in midlife.

"Effects of Timing and Level of Degree Attained on Depressive Symptoms and Self-Rated Health at Midlife"

Abstract

Objectives. We examined whether attaining a higher educational degree after 25 years of age was associated with fewer depressive symptoms and better self-rated health at midlife than was not attaining a higher educational degree. 

Methods. We analyzed data from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, restricting our sample to respondents who had not attained a bachelor’s degree by 25 years of age (n=7179). We stratified all regression models by highest degree attained by 25 years of age.

Results. Among respondents with no degree, a high school diploma, or a post–high school certificate at 25 years of age, attaining at least a bachelor’s degree by midlife was associated with fewer depressive symptoms and better self-rated health at midlife compared with respondents who did not attain a higher degree by midlife. Those with an associate’s degree at 25 years of age who later attained a bachelor’s degree or higher reported better health at midlife. 

Conclusions. Attaining at least a bachelor’s degree after 25 years of age is associated with better midlife health. Other specifications of educational timing and its health effects across the life course should be studied.

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