A team from the Universities of Cambridge, Bristol, and the University College London’s Social Research Institute find that both education and job stresses during a person’s late teens and early 20s can predict who will or won’t suffer from heart trouble 20 years later. Moreover, researchers say these early experiences in the working world actually have a stronger link to heart health during middle age than that same person’s current job when they reach their 40s.
Researchers looked at the health records of more than 12,000 people in the 1970 British Birth Cohort during their study. The team then used a data-driven method to separate these individuals into different socioeconomic groups, depending on how much education they had, their job type, and how long they were unemployed between the ages of 16 and 24. Study authors then compared these results to each person’s cardiovascular risk factors at age 46. These measures included blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and waist circumference.
The results show that young workers who spent a longer time in school and quickly went into a professional or managerial role as a young adult displayed better cardiovascular health 20 years later. Interestingly, this link isn’t completely due to certain workers having a higher income or better job at age 46.
In fact, study authors believe their findings show that economic factors during middle age don’t contribute to the link between a young adult’s socioeconomic trajectory and future health. Instead, the authors believe companies and workers need to start paying more attention to stress, depression, and job demands on young employees.
“We found that an individual’s education and employment experiences in early adulthood had a far larger impact on measures of cardiovascular health more than twenty years later than their occupation or income at that time did,” says first author Dr. Eleanor Winpenny.
This seems like great news to share with my students. Most of the students I interact with spend four years earning a bachelor’s degree, and then take an entry-level, professional position, in their field of choice.
It seems to be exactly what this study is calling for in terms of helping young people get off to a good start, which will reap healthy benefits as they start to approach middle-age.
The only concern I have, and this was highlighted both by COVID and the Olympics, is that many young people feel a great deal of stress, and that needs to be addressed. Despite seeming to have it all, many of these young adults are feeling a lot of pressure, which puts a lot of stress on their health.
So I think in addition to preparing these young people to successfully transition into a professional position, we need to also prepare them on how to avoid and manage stress.
Such a combination would likely reap significant benefits twenty to thirty years down the road. That is an age when many people are feeling the stress of homeownership, having children of their own, and career management.
If they have been taught how to successfully cope with such stressors, it should make it easier for them to manage such situations, and successfully move on to the next stage of their life.
All this seems to suggest that stress management should be part of everyone’s education. I’ve had a meditation expert visit my classes several times, but missed out last year because of COVID. It seems like it’s time to bring him back…