Highest Earned Degree, Education in Years, and Health Behavior among U.S. Young Adults

Julie Skalamera, University of Texas at Austin
Robert A. Hummer, University of Texas at Austin
Katrina M. Walsemann, University of South Carolina
Melissa H. Humphries, University of Texas at Austin

Highly educated U.S. adults have better health and this relationship has strengthened among recent cohorts. One key pathway relating education to health is health behavior. This study describes the relationships between highest degree obtained, years of education, and health behavior among young adults; examines whether socioeconomic attainment mediates the relationships; and tests whether these relationships vary by gender. We focus on whether years of education, educational degrees, or both matter for more favorable health behavior. We use NLSY-97 data, which includes both quantity and credential education measures. Findings reveal that higher educational degrees are associated with more positive health behavior, while increasing years of education also matters net of degree attainment. Some differences across behaviors exist. Socioeconomic status mediates these relationships, but the effects are weak. Findings also show no notable gender differences. This research shows that both educational quantity and credentials matter quite strongly for favorable health behavior.

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Presented in Poster Session 8: Adult Health and Mortality