Education has long been associated with a sense of accomplishment, meeting a person’s need for career advancement, and elevating one’s status in life. Now, new studies suggest that education is a strong determinant of how a person approaches life from an emotional standpoint.

Warren Buffett, at 81 years old, is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and still going strong. He is planning on working until 100 years old. What is his secret to longevity? According to Buffett, “All in all, I’ve enjoyed remarkably good health — largely because of genes, of course—but also, I think, because I enjoy life so much every day.”

This trend is continuing to break the traditional notion of retirement at age 65. Many entrepreneurs work well into their 80’s and 90’s. Sidney Harman bought Newsweek Magazine at age 92 and this is not uncommon today.

What is the secret to their success?

Longevity experts are beginning to discover a correlation between higher education and higher incomes. They are also finding that the people in this category experience great physical and emotional health. According to Laura Carstensen, researcher on aging and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, people with more knowledge tend to live in better neighborhoods and have jobs that aren’t mentally or physically taxing. “This group of people has very little in the way of functional disabilities,” Carstensen says when referring to Buffett and other older business leaders. “What we know about them is that they’re doing incredibly well, physically and emotionally.”

The latest Gallup poll suggests that education may be a strong predictor of emotional health as a person ages. The survey was performed over an 18 month period and targeted a random sampling of 520,267 adults covering all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The data is classified according to gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, household number of adults and type of phone.

After polling numerous age groups and ethnicities, the results showed that older Americans, aged 65 and older who had a college education, were more likely to experience healthier emotional states than people of the same age group who had less education. These results were consistent across gender, marital status, employment and satisfaction with living and location.

How is emotional health identified?

According to the Gallup poll, people who are emotionally “well-off” had scores above 90 on the Gallup-Healthways Emotional Health Index. The scale is based on 100 points and targeted the emotional well-being of participants by asking them questions about their lives and emotional state the day before the survey. The emotions used on the survey were: smiling/laughing, learning/doing something interesting, being treated with respect, enjoyment, happiness, worry, sadness, anger, and stress.

According to the results, only 30% of the participants aged 65 and older with a high school education or less scored above 90 on the Emotional Health Index scale. In contrast, 46% of the participants who had a post-graduate degree scored higher than 90.

The Bottom Line

The Gallup poll summarized the results of the study by stating that older Americans with higher education have higher Emotional Health Index scores than people in the same age group with less education. However, the results do not suggest whether people who have more education evolve into a healthier emotional state or people who start out emotionally positive gravitate towards higher learning.

The study may suggest, however, that the benefits of a college degree could possibly reach beyond the enhancement of one’s professional career and income level. Additionally, the Gallup poll indicates that education may give people enhanced skills to manage emotions later in life.

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