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Why smart men should find a well educated woman

Sometimes it seems that we are always hanging on for the next big breakthrough in health. What will it be – a cure for cancer, diabetes or schizophrenia?

The funny thing is we already have the big breakthrough; it’s been shown to be associated with so many health benefits in so many studies.

The problem is that it doesn’t fit with our idea of what a breakthrough should be – some sort of scientific discovery, preferably with a technological application, backed up by a healthy bottom line.

How might things be different if we stopped to consider education as the big breakthrough for improving health?

I’ve been pondering this after skimming a new study by Swedish researchers, titled “Marital partner and mortality: the effects of the social positions of both spouses”,  just published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (you can get the abstract for free via Google, but have to pay for the full article)

Men were more likely to live longer if their spouse was well educated. Indeed, the woman’s  education was more important for a man’s chances of a long life than his own educational attainment. (I’m not sure what this might mean for same sex couples)

The authors suggest that education predicts occupation, which predicts class and social status as well as income. It may also influence selection of partner and, importantly, lifestyle.

I’m sure the relationship between good health and education is complex, with the causal arrow pointing in both directions, so maybe my breakthrough analogy is a tad simplistic.

But what would it mean if we decided that education was the big breakthrough in health and the key to both improving population health and reducing the health gap between the rich and poor?

How might we do things differently?

Pay teachers as much as doctors? Or do other things to make sure the profession attracted and retained the best teachers?

Ensure that schools are such enjoyable and engaging places that kids want to be there and stay there as long as possible?

Make higher education freely available or perhaps even offer financial incentives – pay people to get a degree? Especially if they’re from disadvantaged areas or groups?

Ensure that every education policy or initiative has a health impact assessment?

What else?

Surely it’s worth looking beyond the typical response to these sort of findings – of advising men to marry well educated women if they want a long life (and for women to get educated for the sake of their health as well as their family’s.)

If anyone wants a copy of the article, let me know…

Comments 8

  1. Josh says:

    Why would any married person actually want to live longer?

  2. EnergyPedant says:

    Right, so I should definitely make my wife finish her Masters or maybe even encourage her to convert it to a PhD?

    Will these figures hold up over time when the proportion of highly educated women increases?? Right now there’s not a lot of 70+ y.o. females with Uni degrees compared to the rate of women in their 20/30s pursuing higher ed.

  3. Doctor Whom says:

    You’ve only grabbed half the problem:

    “For men, the wife’s education is more important for the mortality risk than his own education, when the man’s social class is included in the model. For women, the husband’s social class yields larger mortality differences than own occupational measures. Women’s education and men’s social class are particularly important for women’s deaths from circulatory diseases.”

    For women the man’s social class yields larger differences.

    Yes having and educated wife will help if you are a man but if you are a woman you’ll get more bang for your buck – so to speak – by marrying a man of a high socio-economic class.

    So the old adage is true for women: “F**k down if you like – but always marry up”
    economic class.

  4. Tony Richardson says:

    Of course my wife is smart. She married me!

  5. aroundtheclock says:

    My man is highly educated… and worn into the ground by his profession (which pays adequately, but not generously). I feel his health is not as robust as that of less educated friends, who earn good money in trades, and have a lot more free time. I also feel that while a focus on women’s education might make a feel-good headline, women prefer to marry up – and lots of men prefer to marry down. My education achievements are not as solid as my husband’s; our lifestyle agenda is set very much by his expectations of life. Most of my most highly achieving women friends are not married. Importantly, I have no real interest in prioritising my career over my family. As I looked around my first professional workplace after graduation I realised that the successful men had a secret weapon I could never have – a wife. they were the welldressed ones, with the family photos on the desk. The successful women in the office had no-one. They lived on takeaways, and dressed from the dirty laundry basket. The twelve hour days and endless workload got to me in the end, I was glad to marry. Educated women still end up picking up the dirty socks.

  6. Scott says:

    I remember when I was doing an econometrics class at uni, the lecturer (a real stat’s nerd) was using American high school test scores to demonstrate regression methods. She mentioned a variety of variables can affect the outcome but said the variables most likely to improve a child’s test scores are socio-economic status (i.e how wealthy the family is) and the mother’s education attainment level. It’s funny that so many things can depend on this variable. The silver bullet maybe?

  7. Croakey says:

    Josh and Tony Richardson are running neck and neck for the Croakey comment of the week prize.

    Dr Whom, you’re right that I focused on only one aspect of the findings. I thought the education finding was the most interesting if anyone is interested trying to develop a policy response to findings like this. Seems that intervening to boost whole population’s education levels might be an easier/better ask than a focus on individual men’s social class. Also in view of the links between maternal education and infant mortality and child health generally.

  8. Doctor Whom says:

    Croakey – I have no argument or clever comments.

    It dose seem from numerous studies and data that the single most important thing one can do to extend life and improve the quality of life is to get an education beyond year 12. Man or Woman.

    Counter-intuitively even if the choice is between a job and education then the choice should be education.

    So the single best thing a society can do to improve health is to make progress to post -secondary education easy, by lowering barriers to entry financial, educational and geographical.

    One big lack of any sort of reasonable policy is how to help those who by background or financial imperatives are already in the workplace without post sec quals.

    At the moment to become a “mature” age student is a ritual of humiliation and barriers imposed by no weekend classes, no intensive blocks of teaching, limited tokenistic online courses, no access to library /lecturers/ tutors outside comfortable business hours say 10 – 4 four days a week.

    The RPL system looks good on paper but is an expensive hoax only able to be manipulated by those already in the academic system for their own advancement. (I think the RPL system is a a scandal that needs some investigation)

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social policy
Summer reading 2020-2021
Tasmanian election 2021
Testing Croakey News category 1
The Croakey Archives
#cripcroakey
#HealthEquity16
#HealthMatters
#IHMayDay (all years)
#IHMayDay 2014
#IHMayDay15
#IHMayday16
#IHMayDay17
#IHMayDay18
#LoveRural 2014
Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2019
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay