Well-educated older people report better health

Switzerland has one of the highest life expectancy in Europe at 83.7 years © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The latest federal health survey of people 55 and older reveals that social factors such as education influence health into old age.

This content was published on October 14, 2019 - 11:23

Three-quarters of the population over 55 years old say they are in very good health, according to the latest survey of seniors’ health in Switzerland. However, there are significant differences across education levels.

Some 59% of those who have only completed compulsory schooling indicate that they are in very good health, compared to 76% of those with an upper secondary degree and 84% of those with tertiary education. These differences also don’t diminish with age although the share of people reported to be in good health decreases.

The survey found that seniors with higher levels of education also tend to adopt health-promoting behaviours including consuming five fruits and vegetables per day.

The differences are more pronounced among women than men with well-educated women twice as likely to adopt healthy behaviours than lower educated women. They are also three times less likely to suffer from obesity than female seniors with only a compulsory education (22% compared to 8%); among male seniors, it is only two times less. 

Risky behaviours

Higher educated men also show lower risk of chronic alcohol consumption and are less likely to be smokers. Some 24% of men between 55 and 64 years of age with a tertiary education were smokers compared to 40% of those with only compulsory education. However, the study also notes that well-educated seniors are less likely to want to quit smoking.

The study is based on 2017 figures and is part of the Swiss Health Survey conducted every five years. It captures the views of more than 8,000 people over the age of 55.

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