Health as a determinant of educational attainment and employment

PhD project (3/4 yr research project leading to independent research at the doctorate level)

Laura Howe, Neil Davies, Hayley Jones, Matt Dickson (Univ. Bath), Frances Rice (Cardiff Univ.), Alisha Davies (Public Health Wales)

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Relationships between socioeconomic factors and health are likely to be bidirectional, with socioeconomic processes influencing both physical and mental health (social causation), but poor health also limiting educational potential and the ability to work (social drift).

The role of socioeconomic factors in shaping health is well studied, but the reverse process - poor health affecting socioeconomic outcomes - has been less well explored.

This project aims to generate high quality evidence that improving population levels of health will benefit educational attainment, employment and other socioeconomic outcomes, thus strengthening the economic argument for cross-governmental investment in health.

Observational evidence suggests that many aspects of poor health are associated with lower educational attainment and economic outcomes. However, these observational studies are likely to be plagued with bias due to confounding by background socioeconomic factors.

Aims & objectives

In this project, we will use cutting edge causal inference methods to assess the causal effects of health on educational attainment and economic outcomes. We will also use data from across the life course to understand how these relationships shift with age, and intergenerational data to assess effects of parental health on a child's socioeconomic outcomes.


You will carry out analysis of existing data from population-based cohort studies including UK Biobank and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). This analysis will address questions such as:

1. Are associations between health and social and economic outcomes causal?
2. Are there periods of the life course during which health problems are particularly detrimental for economic outcomes?
3. Does parental health causally affect social and economic outcomes in children?

The project offers the opportunity to become skilled in techniques such as Mendelian Randomization, life course analyses and intergenerational analyses. There is also potential to use evidence synthesis approaches such as Multi-Parameter Evidence Synthesis to combine results from our analyses with external sources of evidence in order to gain better estimates of the potential economic return on improvements to population health, and the uncertainty around these estimates.


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Created on Nov. 29, 2017, 3:59 p.m.

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