Good education may keep you younger for longer
An international team led by researchers from University College London found that those who pass more exams before leaving formal education stay biologically younger than their years, while those who leave education with fewer qualifications are prone to age more quickly.
The pattern, according to the researchers, is not changed by social and economic status later in life, the Daily Mail reported.
For their study, the researchers recruited around 450 office workers and examined the length of their telomeres — the protective strips of DNA that form tiny "caps" on the ends of chromosomes, protecting against ageing processes.
They have been called the "chromosomal clock" as they appear to be central to biological ageing. Longer telomeres are a sign of being biologically younger and healthier.
In the study, the participants were separated into four groups according to whether they had no qualifications or had qualifications, such as O-levels, A-levels or a degree, when they left formal education.
The subjects of the study were drawn from participants in the Whitehall II study, set up in 1985 to investigate the importance of social class for health by following more than 10,000 men and women working in the civil service.
The results showed that people with lower educational attainment had shorter telomeres, suggesting they may age faster.
But it was found that telomere length increased with each stage of educational attainment, suggesting ageing slows and health improves the more qualifications are attained.
The study, funded by the Medical Research Council and the British Heart Foundation, is published online today in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity.
Professor Stephen Holgate of the Medical Research Council UK, which funded the research, said the study backed up the longstanding message that "your experiences early in life can have important influences on your health".
Andrew Steptoe, a professor of psychology at British Heart Foundation and the lead author of the study, added that "long-term exposure to the conditions of lower status` was behind faster cellular ageing, not current income".