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Does an elite education benefit health? Findings from the 1970 British Cohort Study

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posted on 2016-03-04, 10:12 authored by David Bann, Mark Hamer, S. Parsons, G.B. Ploubidis, A. Sullivan
Background Attending private school or a higher status university is thought to benefit future earnings and occupational opportunities. We examined whether these measures were beneficially related to health and selected health-related behaviours in midlife. Methods Data were from up to 9799 participants from the 1970 British birth Cohort Study. The high school attended (private, grammar, or state) was ascertained at 16 years, and the university attended reported at 42 years (categorised as either a higher (Russell Group institution) or normal status institutions). Self-reported health, limiting illness, and BMI were reported at 42 years, along with television viewing, take-away meal consumption, physical inactivity, smoking, and high risk alcohol drinking. Associations were examined using multiple regression models, adjusted for gender, childhood socioeconomic, health, and cognitive measures. Results Private school and higher status university attendance were associated with favourable self-rated health, lower BMI, and beneficially associated with health related-behaviours. For example, private school attendance was associated with 0.56 (95% CI: 0.48, 0.65) odds of lower self-rated health (OR for higher status university: 0.32 (0.27, 0.37)). Associations were largely attenuated by adjustment for potential confounders, except for those of private schooling and higher status university attendance with lower BMI and television viewing, and less frequent take-away meal consumption. Conclusions Private school and higher status university attendance were related to better self-rated health, lower BMI, and multiple favourable health behaviours in midlife. Findings suggest that type or status of education may be an important under-researched construct to consider when documenting and understanding socioeconomic inequalities in health.


This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number ES/M008584/1).



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International Journal of Epidemiology


BANN, D. ... et al., 2016. Does an elite education benefit health? Findings from the 1970 British Cohort Study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 46 (1), pp. 293-302.


Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association / © The Authors


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