Explaining the Effect of Education on Health: A Field Study in Ghana

Ellen Peters, David P. Baker, Nathan F. Dieckmann, Juan Leon, John Collins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    45 Scopus citations


    Higher education (or more years of formal schooling) is widely associated with better health, but the underlying causes of this association are unclear. In this study, we tested our schooling-decision-making model, which posits that formal education fosters intellectual ability, which in turn provides individuals with enduring competencies to support better health-related behaviors. Using data from a field study on formal education in 181 adults in rural Ghana, we examined health-protective behaviors related to HIV/AIDS infection, a critical health issue in Ghana. As expected, individuals with more education practiced more protective health behaviors. Our structural equation modeling analysis showed that cognitive abilities, numeracy, and decision-making abilities increased with exposure to schooling, and that these enhanced abilities (and not HIV/AIDS knowledge) mediated the effects of education on health-protective behavior. Research and policy implications for HIV prevention efforts in sub-Saharan Africa are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1369-1376
    Number of pages8
    JournalPsychological Science
    Issue number10
    StatePublished - Oct 2010


    • cognitive abilities
    • decision making
    • education
    • health
    • numeracy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychology(all)

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