Friday, July 17, 2015

Health Status: Education Matters (Even More)

Higher education leads to better health. Social scientists have known this for a long time. But a National Bureau of Economic Research analysis shows that the relationship is even stronger than we thought.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, NBER researchers compared self-reported health with the results of actual medical tests to determine whether educated respondents more accurately self-report their health. They do. The study found accurate self-reporting of health status rising with education, with less-educated respondents underreporting their health problems. The problems examined were smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

To date, many of the studies examining the effect of educational attainment on health have been based on self-reports. This is a problem, say the researchers. They conclude: "Our results imply that the educational gradient in health, when measured using self-reported health, tends to understate the true gradient." Measuring the true size of the educational gradient in health may require objective tests rather than self-reports.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Health Disparities Across Education: The Role of Differential Reporting Error, NBER Working Paper 21317 ($5)

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