Health and the Educational Attainment of Adolescents

The relationship between health and educational attainment for youth has been infrequently studied. Poor health has been posited to influence educational attainment through academic, psychosocial, and/or socioeconomic factors.

The present study investigated the relationship between health and educational attainment, specifically, timely high school completion and postsecondary enrollment, for adolescents. Data from 1997 to 2003 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort (NLSY97) was used in the study. Participants included 8,050 adolescents who were 20 years of age by 2003 in the timely high school completion analysis and 6,988 adolescents who finished high school between 1997 and 2003 for the postsecondary enrollment analysis.

Key Findings:                       

  • In the full estimated model, each unit decrease in health lowered the odds of finishing school on time by 16 percent.
  • In the full estimated model, each unit decrease in health lowered the odds of postsecondary school enrollment by 16 percent.
  • Although both contributed to explaining health-related educational outcomes, academic factors were more strongly associated with such outcomes than were psychosocial factors.

Educational attainment for youth was related to reports of health status. Youth with poorer health during adolescence confronted challenges to educational attainment as they grew into young adulthood.