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Marry Smart & Live Longer

A Spouse’s Education Impacts Personal Health

A Spouse’s Education Impacts Personal Health

By John Salak –

Yes, of course, it’s always a good idea to pick a partner for love. Many would argue that like-minded values, humor and a certain degree of financial security are also good characteristics in a significant other.


But what about education? Nice but needed? Apparently, a partner’s or spouse’s level of education can provide a big health boost for individuals. 


There is plenty of research available that underscores that higher education levels from childhood through adulthood provide all sorts of benefits, including enhanced job satisfaction, increased income, greater access to acceptance of mental and physical health services and ultimately improved personal health and longevity. 


The Association For Psychological Science reported that more formal education can even help forestall obvious signs of age-related cognitive issues. “The total amount of formal education that people receive is related to their average levels of cognitive functioning throughout adulthood,” said Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, a co-author of the association’s report and a researcher at the University of Texas.


Now, however, researchers at Indiana University report that spousal education has a big-time positive impact on their partner’s health. The impact, in fact, maybe just as great as a person’s own education level. 


“Our results show that who you’re married to, and how much education they have, matter for your health,” said Andrew Halpern-Manners, an associate professor in Indiana’s Department of Sociology. “This provides further evidence that education, in addition to being valuable for individuals, is also a sharable resource.”


Indiana researchers came to their conclusions after studying more than 50 years of data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which collects information on the health, marriages and educational attainments of individuals and their spouses, siblings and their siblings’ spouses.


The positive impact of a partner’s education level has long been suspected, but it was difficult to specifically identify the effect until the Indiana team broke down the data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. 


The impact wasn’t only large and positive, it was especially pronounced among women, whose health was more closely tied to spousal education than men’s. Researchers stressed that it is possible that the findings related to women reflect the time period (1960s-1970s) when most of the respondents completed their education, married and entered the labor force.


“The fact that we observe significant cross-over effects means that education has health-enhancing benefits for the individual, but it also has tangible benefits for those around them — especially intimate ties,” Halpern-Manners reported. “This underscores the importance of education — as a public good worth investing in — and suggests that its overall public health impact may be larger than we typically imagine.”




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