Considerable evidence supports the premise that higher levels of education lead to enhanced health, including protective health behaviors. This paper focuses on how education affects one health behavior known to lead to enhanced health: the cessation of smoking. In particular, the authors examine the extent to which education influences the decision by middle-aged adults to quit smoking following a heart attack, a potentially life-threatening health event. We first hypothesize that middle-aged adults with more formal education will stop smoking more readily than people with less formal education following the experience of a heart attack. Second, we ask what other factors might underlie and explain that hypothesized effect. Using longitudinal data, the authors track changes in individual smoking behaviors after a heart attack among preretirement-age Americans. We control for documented correlates of smoking and heart attack plus other factors associated with education, heart attack, and smoking that may also influence whether a person quits smoking. In addition to confirming evidence on the education-health association as well as the documented connection between heart attack and smoking cessation, this study provides a surprising twist on those links: Our results show that the move to quit smoking following the experience of a heart attack among middle-aged adults is significantly and dramatically moderated by their level of educational attainment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health