It is no secret that exercise reaps multiple benefits, both mentally and physically. In the popular words of Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blond, “Exercise makes you happy and happy people just don’t kill their husbands.” In addition to making people happy, exercise and good health may also lead to improvements in education. However, the reverse may also be true, that education leads to improvements in health.
As discussions about the post millennium development goals come into full throttle, it is important to remember the interconnectedness between health and education and to consider basic economic theories of causation so that effective policy goals can be created.
According to Angus Deaton, Princeton, “an additional year of education reduces mortality rates (at all ages) by around 8%.” This could be true because people who are educated have the skill sets necessary to make smart decisions that lead to positive health outcomes. It is also likely that more education leads to more access to economic resources, and therefore better nutrition and health care.
However, there are also many studies showing the reverse pattern of causation, where an increase in health leads to improvements in education. A September 18th New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds highlights how physical fitness may promote school success. Reynolds states that, “Children who are physically fit absorb and retain new information more effectively than children who are out of shape.”
Due to these conflicting claims of causation, it could be possible that some other factors lead people to be both educated and healthy. For example, Deaton states, “people who are more patient, more forward looking, and have more ability to delay gratification, are likely to be both better educated and healthier.” Some people may have personalities that make them inclined to study yoga, eat vegetables, and read a book.
In an effort to address these social inclinations and behavior differences, holistic policy approaches aimed at the root causes of both health and education inequalities may be successful in leading to improved outcomes in both realms.
More holistic policy approaches may also be effective because although the direction of causation between health and education is not yet clear, the correlation and connection should not be overlooked and should be considered as the next millennium development goals are being created.