Education Differences in Healthy Behavior Changes and Adherence Among Middle-Aged Americans

Rachel Margolis, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Western Ontario, will present "Education Differences in Healthy Behavior Changes and Adherence Among Middle-Aged Americans" as part of the Demography Workshop, on February 28, 2013.

Although the better-educated are more likely to practice healthy health behaviors when measured at a point in time, there is not clear evidence regarding whether more educated people are more likely to initiate healthy behavior changes in the face of new chronic conditions and whether they are better able to adhere to these healthy changes, once made. I use the Health and Retirement Study to examine smoking cessation and starting physical activity by educational attainment over a 18-year period. The more-educated are the least likely to smoke in middle age and the most likely to quit overall. Education is an important moderator for smoking cessation upon diagnosis, but only for respondents in their 50s, not older. After smoking cessation, the more educated also better adhere to smoking cessation. There are large differences by educational attainment in starting physical activity overall, starting after diagnosis, and adherence over time. Results suggest that education influences the ways in which people respond to a new health problem, which in turn shapes socioeconomic differences in health over the life span.

Rachel Margolis is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Western Ontario. She got her PhD in demography and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 and MSc in Population and Development from the London School of Economics in 2005.  Her research focuses on factors throughout the life course which contribute to social disparities in health such as early life conditions, childbearing and parenthood, and the management of chronic diseases in adulthood.

The weekly Demography Workshop series is held every Thursday from 12:00 – 1:20 p.m. in seminar room 232/233, located in NORC's offices on the second floor of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Studies at 1155 East 60th Street. Students, faculty, and all interested researchers are encouraged to attend. To make arrangements for persons needing assistance, please call Adelle Hinojosa at (773)256-6315.

For more information about the weekly workshop series, its faculty co-chairs, or links to archived papers, abstracts, and slides from past presentations, visit the Demography Workshop site.