Lifelong Learning Leads To Happiness
Your mind may be the closest thing to the Holy Grail of longevity and happiness. Education has been widely documented by researchers as the single variable tied most directly to improved health and longevity. And when people are intensely engaged in doing and learning new things, their well-being and happiness can blossom. By Philip Moeller for U.S. News
This effect becomes even more valuable as we get older. Even in old age, it turns out, our brains have more plasticity to adapt and help us than was once thought. Old dogs, in short, can learn a lot of new tricks.
"I think most social scientists would put their money on education as the most important factor in ensuring longer lives," says psychologist Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. People with more education get better jobs that pay more money, are less physically demanding, and provide more enjoyment. They live in safer neighborhoods, practice healthier lifestyles, and have less stress.
In a paper published earlier this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research, authors David Cutler and Adriana Lleras-Muney reviewed education-longevity research around the world. "Education not only predicts mortality in the U.S., it is also a large predictor of health in most countries, regardless of their level of development." They cited research that 25-year-olds with some college education in 1980 could expect to live another 54.4 years, on average, whereas 25-year-olds with high school degrees had life expectancies of another 51.6 years, or nearly three years less. A similar study in 2000—only 20 years later—found that the life-expectancy gap between those with some college and high school graduates had increased to seven years.