Economic Health: the Power of Education and Adaptability
By Elisa Furlan
reviewed by kareem mahmoud
Why do you study? Is it because you want to get a degree? Because your parents are expecting you to do it? Spending hours and hours on books isn’t only a way to get good grades or achieve specific goals. Instead, education is directly linked to health.
Health literacy, in fact, is defined by the U.S. Institute of Medicine as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” When we have a wider knowledge of things related to health, we can work on improving or maintaining our health. Unfortunately, it works the other way around, too.
Low health literacy, a result of low education, prevents us from accessing health information and care. How can we take care of our health properly if we’re unable to understand basic health information?
How can emotional intelligence benefit our health?
Education isn’t the only factor contributing to our health. In fact, a key concept is emotional intelligence. That is the combination of two elements: trait emotional intelligence and ability emotional intelligence. “Trait emotional intelligence” is the sum of traits related to emotions situated at the lower level of personality hierarchies. “Ability emotional intelligence,” on the other hand, is the result of a series of skills, such as being able to identify and express emotions, access feelings to facilitate thoughts, and regulate emotions to improve our intellectual and emotional growth.
Emotional intelligence is fundamental to our wellbeing. Since this ability helps us better manage emotions, it’s believed that people with higher emotional intelligence are able to achieve higher life satisfaction levels. In fact, a 2015 study showed that graduates with a higher level of emotional intelligence have greater life satisfaction and less perceived stress, as well as a greater understanding of other people’s feelings.
Career adaptability and career optimism
Education is often a step closer to our dream job. When we study and achieve certain goals, we feel happy and confident. In fact, getting the jobs we love vastly benefits our happiness.
It may sound cheesy, but have you ever wondered what happiness is?
Happiness is a positive emotional feeling described as “a presence of positive affect and an absence of negative one.” Along with life satisfaction and the economic factors of a country, it’s an indicator of the population’s wellbeing and their quality of life.
Since the job market is very competitive nowadays, we may feel a lot of stress when first approaching it. Perceived stress negatively affects our wellbeing.
However, there are two factors that can help us improve our health when facing the job market:
- Career adaptability: the ability to get ready in advance for a predicted change by learning new skills in relation to the ever-changing job market.
- Career optimism: a positive attitude towards the job market and future career expectations.
These two attitudes benefit our health. A 2014 study was conducted on university students and recent graduates, two groups highly subjectable to perceived stress. Not only do they have lower mental health’s levels, but they’re also more prone to developing depressive symptoms. Young graduates, in particular, suffer from economic insecurities due to the limited opportunities that the job market offers them.
The results of the study showed that career adaptability and optimism predicted happiness and life satisfaction for students, while only the second was associated with higher happiness and life satisfaction levels for graduates.
Having greater adaptability has a big impact on our health:
- We’re able to manage and control different aspects of our lives more efficiently.
- We’re more likely to be happy about our achievements, instead of always aspiring for more.
- We’re able to deal with stressful and scary events better, finding new, more efficient ways to tackle these problems.
- We’re able to prepare better for the challenges the job market will put us through.
The job market and work satisfaction
Choosing what you want to study is a very important step: it will affect your next three to four years of college, as well as your next forty years of work.
After gaining the required skills during university, finding a good occupation is the next step.
Being satisfied with your job depends on a variety of factors, such as job characteristics, rewards, work environment, and the job-education match. The last one in particular is one of the most important things: when you’re able to find a job that closely relates to your degree, you’re much more likely to feel happy and accomplished.
A 2014 study investigated the relationship between education-job match, salary, and work satisfaction. Comparing employees from three different sectors — public, non-profit, and for-profit — the results highlighted that, regardless of the sector, work satisfaction levels are higher when there’s a close link between your education and the job. However, things are different when we look at salary: only for-profit employees’ salaries played a key role in work satisfaction, while the other two sectors’ employees weren’t much concerned with it. This can be explained by looking at the motivations of the second group. People who work for non-profit or public sectors were motivated by the value of their job rather than the compensation.
The problem of burnout
When looking for a job, it’s a good idea to analyze how difficult that job may be. If our job is highly demanding, we may feel overwhelmed and exhausted. This feeling is called burnout, and it’s very common in, but not limited to, people who work in the medical field.
Numerous studies have shown that a lot of physicians suffer from burnout. A 2009 study, for example, highlighted that 40% of the participants were experiencing such feelings. Another study, conducted on surgical oncologists, resulted in a similar picture: in fact, although the number of doctors who suffered from burnout was slightly lower (almost 30%), the same percentage showed symptoms of depression. If we look at what a career in oncology demands, it’s not surprising that such a number of employees have these symptoms. Caring for people who have cancer naturally brings a lot of stress, especially because they often have to tell bad news to patients’ families.
This perspective may sound depressing, but if we look at the whole study we find out an important thing: caring about your job is fundamental to your wellbeing. In fact, even though the job was highly demanding and required a lot of overwork, more than two thirds of physicians said that they would choose the same career if they had the chance.
When you choose a degree, think about the job opportunities that degree offers. We rely on money, and it’s a factor that may determine you choosing one field over another.
However, passion is key. If you’re not passionate about what you’re studying and what you’ll do in the future, you may experience burnout sooner than other people, which may negatively affect the rest of your life.
If you’re not happy with your current job, try changing it: it may result in higher happiness and mental health levels.
Don’t be afraid of changes — they’re a part of our lives. We only have one, so we have to do all that’s possible to live it fully and without regrets.
Kareem is a medical doctor completing a master’s in international health at Heidelberg University in Germany. His main interests are in digital health and telemedicine. He traveled to 24 countries and lived in 6 of them. He speaks Arabic, English, and German fluently and has basic knowledge of French. Apart from all the educational and work stuff, he does crossfit religiously and occasionally jumps out of airplanes for fun! You should try it, just make sure you have a parachute!
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