Education and mental health in Europe: school attainment as a means to fight depression?

Maria Sironi, University of Pennsylvania

Poor mental health is a major burden of disease in Europe. The cost to society is substantial and is estimated to increase as the population ages. A high level of education is associated with better health and greater longevity both in developed and developing countries, but little research has been done on mental health and depression. Using a multilevel framework and data collected through the third edition of the European Social Survey, I estimated the association between school attainment and depression in 23 countries across Europe. I found a significant relationship between higher education level and better mental health. The magnitude of this relationship is small but not negligible. Increasing overall education among new generations is not likely to substantially prevent the prevalence of mental disorders in a country, but can attenuate it. The results of the analysis suggest that other factors might help reducing the risk of depression, such as employment and living with a partner. Finally, I argued and showed some evidence that mental health conditions cannot be investigated without considering individuals within their socio-economic context.

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Presented in Session 56: Education, mental health and well-being

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