More education usually means better health—but less so for Black men

Rising education levels typically lead to better health, but Black men in the U.S. are not benefiting as much as other groups, according to recent research.

In general, higher education leads to better-paying jobs and health insurance, healthier behaviors, and longer lives. According to a May 19, 2021, KHN (Kaiser Health News) article, studies show that life expectancy is higher for educated Black men than those who haven’t finished high school—but the increase is not as big as it is for whites.

The article noted that Black men already face many health obstacles. They’re more likely to die from chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer than white men, and their average life expectancy is lower. Racism plays a key role, according to experts.

“At every level of income and education, there is still an effect of race,” said David Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Black men, even those with an education, tend to have less of a financial and social safety net than white men—which can cause stress, according to experts. Black men climbing the corporate ladder may feel socially isolated, which can also harm health. In addition, Williams pointed out that the cumulative effect of discrimination—even the anticipation of it—takes both a physical and psychological toll.

“It’s not just the actual exposure in dealing with these kinds of experiences, but it’s ‘What do you do before leaving home?’ You’re careful about your dress, your behavior, the way you look because of the threat of discrimination, and so you react,” he said. He noted that when he first became a professor at Yale University, he wore a coat and tie every day, although no one else in his department did—and he kept up the practice for years.

Read the Kaiser Health News article: Racism Derails Black Men’s Health, Even as Education Levels Rise