There is a strong link between adult education and health and well being; learning can provide a healthy lifestyle, develop health literacy, not to mention encourage personal well being and overall happiness.
Early in February the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data on personal well-being in the UK, a three year survey from 2012 – 2015. The release has shown early findings that those aged 65 to 79 reported the highest levels of personal well being and represented the ‘happiest’ age group. Those aged 45 to 59 reported the lowest levels of life satisfaction whilst reporting higher levels of anxiety.
The survey of 300,000 adults from across the UK highlights a number of factors that contribute to the statistics of each age group. From loneliness and poor health in those aged 80 and over, to the responsibilities of looking after children and elderly parents for those aged 45 – 59, these contributing factors provide reason for the low levels of happiness.
Role of Education
In a European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) policy paper: Adult education and health, the conclusion was that adult education needs better support as learning has proven to create a sense of wellbeing and personal happiness.
Adult education plays a role in people’s lives to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle. Having a better understanding of health literacy encourages a better judgement from an individual to make the right choices to their health. Examples of which would be the understanding of the benefits of a balanced diet and the importance of regular exercise, both examples contributors to a healthier lifestyle; mentally and physically in turn reducing stress and anxiety.
Learning in an adult education environment, in which individuals can learn about their health from a professional, can influence them positively through making the right heath decisions.
Activities in a non-formal environment can build self-confidence, skills and belief. Such courses can bring people together, strengthening social interaction reducing the risk of loneliness, crucial to well-being.
Role of Community Learning
The ONS highlights that anxiety is reported highest in adults aged 45-59, anxiety can be in the form of a number of disorders from phobias to post traumatic stress with figures showing that in every 100 people 4.7 suffer with anxiety. It is difficult though for those who suffer from anxiety and mental health to speak out openly. Community learning is one of the best approaches for adult education and health, an environment whereby peer-learning groups offer mutual support and learning for families and individuals providing a surrounding to tall openly.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills launched a £20 million initiative where adult education providers in 61 local authorities are working with local mental health partners. The Mental Health and Further Education (MFHE) pilot projects are short, part-time community learning courses are to test the effectiveness of targeted adult education courses in supporting recovery from mild to moderate mental health problems. Such courses which embed health literacy and education within community learning are a successful way of reaching out to disadvantaged learners.
Such initiatives enable access for all; patients and learners, whereby health education and literacy concern all. The link to ‘happiness’ and understanding our health style and improving health literacy is shown through the accessibility of adult education courses and community learning environments.
Jonny Lear, EPALE UK content coordinator.