How Your Kid's Education Could Make You Healthier

TUESDAY, July 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- If you're a parent, here's another reason to encourage your kids to get a good education: Children's educational successes or failures can impact their parent's physical and mental health, new research suggests.

For the study, researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York analyzed data from the ongoing U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health that began in 1994, and concluded that "it was detrimental to parents' self-reported health and depressive symptoms if none of their children completed college," said study co-author Christopher Dennison, an assistant professor of sociology.

"The negative mental health outcome of the parents was in fact our strongest finding," Dennison said in a university news release.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

According to study co-author Kristen Schultz Lee, "These results are particularly important in light of growing educational inequalities in the U.S. in the last several decades." Lee is an associate professor in the university's department of sociology.

"We know how our own education impacts our own health; we know how parents' education impacts their children in many different ways; now we're trying to add to that understanding by explaining how children's education can have an impact on their parents," she explained.

"One thing I thought particularly interesting about these findings is that those parents who are the least likely to have a child attain a college education (low socioeconomic status) seem to benefit the most from a child having a college degree," Lee said.

And while the investigators found an association, they could not prove a cause-and-effect link. A number of factors may explain the association between children's educational achievements and their parents' health.

"Parents whose children have lower levels of education might spend more time worrying about their children. That has negative implications for their mental health and their self-rated health," Lee said. "Kids without a degree might need more help from their parents and are also less able to provide help if needed in return. Another possibility is that educated children might be doing a better job of helping their parents live healthier lives by encouraging exercise and a sensible diet."

Dennison noted: "In this era when a college degree is of ever-growing importance, we see how the long-term investment in education is advantageous to the adult child's health, but also has benefits down the road for their parents, too."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips on reinforcing children's learning.

SOURCE: University at Buffalo, news release, July 14, 2021

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