London – Getting good grades and going to university makes us no happier than failing exams and dropping out of school, a study claims.
Even the researchers who conducted study admitted the results were surprising, given that previous research has found the opposite.
Until now, it was accepted there was a clear link between level of education and mental health problems.
Poor education has traditionally been associated with a lower income, living in less desirable areas and problems such as crime, drinking and drug taking.
Yet a good education was found to do little to improve levels of happiness – or ‘high mental wellbeing’, as the study called it.
The researchers say this is because many people who didn’t do well at school still have a good work ethic – or are in communities with a good support structure. Having others around them can help them cope better with any problems they face, the study found.
And high mental wellbeing comes not from having fewer problems - but being able to deal better with any problems that one does have. For those who get good grades, it can mean a better job and more income but this in itself does not necessarily equip them any better to deal with personal issues that arise.
The team, from Warwick’s Medical School team examined the levels of high and low mental health from government health surveys conducted on 17,000 UK adults in 2010 and 2011.
They then matched them to factors like educational achievement and income, which are known factors in mental health problems.
They study found that among any given level of educational attainment, the odds of poor mental wellbeing were the same.
Lead study author Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown said: ‘These findings are quite controversial because we expected to find the socioeconomic factors that are associated with mental illness would also be correlated with mental wellbeing.
‘So if low educational attainment was strongly associated with mental illness, high educational attainment would be strongly connected to mental well-being. But that is not the case.’