Adult health behaviors: The postsecondary education effect


Jehn, Anthony (2021). Adult health behaviors: The postsecondary education effect. SSM - Population Health. , PMCID: PMC8749134


Nearly 80% of American adults between the ages of 33–44 have at least some postsecondary education, which ranges from vocational training to a doctorate or professional degree. However, in education-health studies, postsecondary credentials are often grouped into a limited number of categories. This is an important omission as it obscures differentiations between the various types of postsecondary credentials. This study provides the first comprehensive analysis of disparities in health behaviors across the entire postsecondary education gradient. Estimates are produced both in aggregate as well as stratified by gender and race/ethnicity population subgroups. Data comes from Wave 5 of the 2018 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). A standardized weighting technique is used to produce behavioral index scores that identify the full spectrum of behaviors influenced by postsecondary educational attainment. The aggregate results indicate that adults with at least a bachelor's degree have lower engagement with unhealthy behaviors; however, no difference is observed among adults with lower-level postsecondary credentials, compared to high school graduates. Women experience steeper gradients at higher levels of postsecondary education, compared to men. Black and Hispanic Americans experience substantially attenuated gradients at higher levels of education, compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts. These findings have important implications particularly as adults in their thirties and forties continue to exhibit troubling health and mortality trends.



Health behaviors

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

SSM - Population Health


Jehn, Anthony

Year Published








Reference ID