Are those who flourished at school healthier adults? What role for adult education?

Publication type


Series Number



Wider Benefits of Learning Research Reports


Publication date

February 15, 2006


This report concerns a two-part project about the importance for adult health and well-being of (1) broadly defined school success and (2) participation in adult learning.
In the first part of the project we examine which aspects of schooling are markers for health and well-being in adulthood, using not only measures of attainment such as qualifications, but also measures of engagement. Our interest is in testing the strength of broad-ranging childhood indicators for adult health in order to help practitioners target appropriate resources.
In the second part we consider the potential role for adult learning in improving health and well-being amongst adults generally, and in offsetting the disadvantage associated with not flourishing at school, thereby reducing health inequalities. We use longitudinal data to examine relationships between participation in adult learning and trajectories in health and well-being for adults who did and did not flourish at school.
The differences in adult health and well-being between those who flourished at secondary school and those who did not are substantial and pervasive and go beyond the effect of qualifications attained, indicating the importance of engagement at school as well as academic attainment.
We also find that patterns established in early life have a more profound effect than those adopted in later life, and the difference in scale and pervasiveness of the results for school and for adult education tend to support this.
Our findings underline the importance of understanding why flourishing at secondary school is such an important signal for adult health and well-being. However, it does not negate the value of adult education, which seems to provide real opportunities for transformation of poor health and well-being amongst adults, whether or not they flourished at school.





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