Spouses' education may positively impact their partner's health, study finds

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Experts say this may be more important than consumers’ own education status

While many studies have looked at how consumers’ education can impact their health and longevity, a new study conducted by researchers from Indiana University explored how that extends to spouses. According to their findings, a spouse’s education may have positive implications for their partner’s health outcomes. 

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

The benefits of spouse’s education

The researchers analyzed data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which included information on participants’ health and education, as well as their spouse’s and siblings’ health and education. The team was most interested in comparing the health self-reports of siblings whose spouses had different educational outcomes; they then interviewed the participants to see what role their partner’s education had on their perceived health and wellness. 

Ultimately, they learned that the participants were more likely to have more positive feelings about their health when their spouses had higher levels of education. While education has been found to be important for consumers’ own physical well-being, this study showed that a spouse’s education level is equally or more important to a person's health. 

The researchers learned that this association was stronger for women than men; women reported better health outcomes when their husbands had higher education levels. However, this also could be because the study's dataset began in the 1950s, a time when higher education and the workforce was much different than it is today. 

Regardless, the team hopes these findings illustrate the physical health benefits related to education. 

“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,” said Halpern-Manners. “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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