Is Learning the Key to Success?

After a summertime of beach days, Netflix and maybe a job, our younger family members will head back to school this month. Though they may be suffering from end-of-summer bummers, it’s important to remind them (and ourselves) about how education is one of the best investments we can ever make.

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Physicians, professors and epidemiologists have long linked learning to good mental and physical health. The National Bureau of Economic Research has published many statistics about how education can sometimes predict mortality; one concluded that 25 year olds with some college education on average live three years longer than 25 year olds with only high school degrees.

Education is also one of the strongest pavements to a happy life. An article in the 1964 Review of Psychiatric Progress entitled Mental Health in Education noted that “teachers’ responsibility for children’s mental health grows out of their major function to promote achievement…” This progression begins during the pre-kindergarten years when children’s personas, academic prowess, personalities and emotional resilience all contribute to the overall learning process. Many studies, including one published by US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health this year, have shown that progressing to higher forms of education will lead to more intellectually stimulating jobs, higher salaries, living in a safer neighborhood and an overall increase in the quality of mental health.

I agree that the key to lifelong academic proficiency starts with rooting self-confidence and an intellectual template at an early age. In 2008, The Journal of Applied Psychology published an article, How the rich (and happy) get richer (and happier), which showed an interesting correlation between youth core self-evaluations and work success, job satisfaction, pay and occupational status later in life. The results indicated that higher core self-evaluations (more stable personality traits or higher self-esteem) have better jobs and careers because they are more likely to pursue further education and maintain better health.

One’s definition of “job success and money” often remains quite subjective, but psychiatrists often try to objectify mood, depression and happiness. I would like to emphasize that regardless of what someone views as the ideal job subsequent job satisfaction after years of personal growth and learning later is the take home message. Continuing to study and engaging in self-development, even long after we graduate, has clinically shown to improve one’s mental health time and time again. There’s a reason your grandparents love their daily crossword puzzles; it keeps the mind sharp!

dr. uruj kamal

dr. uruj kamal

Dr. Uruj Kamal is Chief Resident of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center-University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Stony Brook native, she enjoys combining her knowledge of mental health with healthy living. Dr. Kamal has a special interest in outpatient adult psychiatry.