Education: introduction

A good education has long been recognised as one of the important foundations in life; facilitating future employment and providing access to a fulfilling adult life. In health terms, education is often described as a 'determinant' of health and is recognised as having an important role in shaping lifelong health. Education is viewed by many as a resource that, apart from providing qualifications, can potentially have a much broader beneficial impact on health and wellbeing in terms of developing values, emotional intelligence, self esteem and social functioning skills.

Relative educational attainment is often observed as a determinant of health inequality and is used along with health status measures to describe the social gradient in health. The Scottish Government's Equally Well: Report of the Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities - Volume 2 (2008) notes that education is often seen as one of several key entry points for reducing social and health inequalities. The report states that education provides literacy, numeracy, and analytical and communication skills which increase people's employability and ability to cope with a range of issues including health. Education also enhances mental and social wellbeing and social inclusion.

The final report of the WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health Closing the gap in a generation – health equity through action on the social determinants of health (2008) notes that educational attainment is linked to improved health outcomes, partly through its effects on adult income, employment and living conditions. Also, there are strong intergenerational effects - educational attainment of mothers being a determinant of child health, survival, and educational attainment.  Meanwhile, social inequities in early life contribute to inequities in health later on, through early child development and educational attainment. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to do poorly in school and subsequently, as adults, are more likely to have lower incomes and higher fertility rates and be less empowered to provide good health care, nutrition, and stimulation to their own children, thus contributing to the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.

This section of the web site deals with education principally as a determinant of health, rather than focussing on health education. However, information on levels of health knowledge, awareness and attitudes to health related behaviour are provided by two Scottish surveys: Health Education Population Survey (HEPS) (From 2008 to 2011, the survey was replaced by the Knowledge, Attitudes and Motivations (KAM) module in the Scottish Government's Scottish Health Survey. This module has now been discontinued) and Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey

The Data page provides links to a range of statistics on school education and lifelong learning, while the Key data sources section provides links to web sites that hold education related data.

Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in February 2014.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out by end March 2015.