Numerous scientific studies have shown that people who are more highly educated live longer. According to a study about the U.S. population, which was published in “Social Science Research”:
- Adults with less than a high-school education have nearly twice the risk of death in a 5-year follow-up period compared to adults with 17 or more years of education.
- Each additional year of education, on average, reduces the odds of adult mortality by about 5% yearly.
- Education often has the strongest effect on mortality, even when multiple indicators of socioeconomic status, such as education, income, and occupational status, and particularly when both direct and indirect effects are considered.
“The strength and consistency of the inverse relation between education and mortality over time, across places, and across demographic groups suggests that education is a ‘fundamental cause’ of health and longevity,” concludes the study’s authors.
Learning Doesn’t End after School
Education doesn’t stop when you leave high school or college. Learning continues when you have children and at work. No one can say that learning how to diaper your first child was easy. Just as difficult is learning proprietary software or how to drive a forklift at work.
Even now, you’re probably learning on a daily basis. Remember when you first bought your cell phone? If you’re on Facebook, you’re probably learning new things each day (although you may not want to remember them all).
Communicating with faraway family is an educational adventure if you use Skype or Google Hangouts. And if you’re one of the thousands of people who received a Kindle for Christmas, you’re probably still trying to figure out exactly how it works.
Learning Is Part of Life
“Lifelong learning is the process of keeping your mind and body engaged, at any age, by actively pursuing knowledge and experience,” says Bridgette Argus, wellness nurse at The Esquiline.
Although there is no direct research relating lifelong learning to longevity, there is research correlating lifelong learning with other benefits that lead to increased longevity. Education, whether at school, work or home, not only helps you live longer, it improves your life.
Benefits of Lifelong Learning:
- Alzheimer’s disease/memory loss prevention
- Improved brain health
- Improved sleep
- Stress reduction
- Ability to adapt to change
- Socialization/loneliness prevention
“Whether it’s learning how to dance, speak a foreign language, or correspond with Facebook, etc., learning always opens the doors to new opportunities,” remarks Bridgette. “Learning keeps your mind sharp, helps maintain memory, increases self-confidence, gives you a new interest to enjoy, helps you meet new people, etc. The sky is the limit with new possibilities.”
How Do You Stimulate Your Mind?
- Learn a new language.
- Take a free online class.
- Learn a new skill or craft, such as how to play a guitar.
- Travel. Road Scholar offers hundreds of learning adventures.
- Volunteer at a local school or at your local library.
- Attend a lecture.
- Buy a new piece of technology and learn how to use it.
Learning at Senior Living Communities
Aware of the benefits of lifelong learning, senior living communities incorporate it into their wellness programs. For example, at The Esquiline, residents can learn German and Zumba; perform with musical instruments; play mind, word and card games; attend lectures and take computer classes.
Explains Bridgette, “A healthy mind can add to many years of living...go ahead and challenge yourself!”