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The effects of learning on wellbeing for older adults in England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 July 2014

Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, University of London, UK.
Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, University of London, UK.
Address for correspondence: Andrew Jenkins, Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AL, UK. E-mail:


There is growing interest in factors which can contribute to the wellbeing of older adults. Participation in learning could have beneficial effects, but to date research on the benefits of learning has tended to focus on young people or those in mid-life and there is currently little evidence on the impact of learning on the wellbeing of older adults. In this paper we provide new, quantitative evidence on the relationship between participation in learning and the wellbeing of older adults. Our study used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a continuing, longitudinal survey of older adults. To measure wellbeing we used the CASP-19 instrument, a subjective wellbeing measure which is available at all waves of the ELSA survey. Respondents were asked about four types of learning activity: obtaining qualifications; attendance at formal education/training courses; membership of education, music or arts groups or evening classes; membership of sports clubs, gym and exercise classes. To take account of unobservable factors which might influence wellbeing, we applied fixed effects panel regressions to four waves of ELSA data. Learning was associated with higher wellbeing after controlling for a range of other factors. We found evidence that more informal types of learning were associated with higher wellbeing. There was no evidence that formal education/training courses were associated with higher wellbeing.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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