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Education and the Subjective Quality of Life

Catherine E. Ross and Marieke Van Willigen
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 38, No. 3, Health Professions: Socialization, Organization, Utilization (Sep., 1997), pp. 275-297
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2955371
Page Count: 23
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Education and the Subjective Quality of Life
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Abstract

We examine whether education influences subjective quality of life. If it does, what are the mechanisms by which education affects well-being? We propose that education improves well-being because it increases access to nonalienated paid work and economic resources that increase the sense of control over life, as well as access to stable social relationships, especially marriage, that increase social support. We examine the relationship between education and a variety of indicators of subjective quality of life--depression, anxiety, anger, aches and pains, malaise, and dissatisfaction. Using two representative national samples collected in 1990 and 1995, we find that the well educated have lower levels of emotional distress (including depression, anxiety, and anger) and physical distress (including aches and pains and malaise), but they do not have lower levels of dissatisfaction. Education reduces distress largely by way of paid work, nonalienated work, and economic resources, which are associated with high personal control; but the extent to which it reduces distress by way of marriage and social support is much more modest. We contrast distress and dissatisfaction as indicators of the subjective quality of life.

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