The more early years education children receive, the less likely they are to develop heart disease in later life, landmark research reveals.
The benefits of early years education have already been shown to be myriad. Recent studies show that preschool attendance leads to improved secondary-school attainment, increased earnings and reduced likelihood of imprisonment in later life. The new research, however, is the first in-depth study of the impact on health.
Academics from two US universities followed 615 children from birth. By the age of 15, the children who had attended preschool had lower systolic blood pressure and arterial pressure than their peers who had been cared for by parents or childminders, the researchers found. These readings indicate a reduced risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.
While the amount of time spent in school made a difference to later health, the quality of the education received there did not. The academics found that class size, teaching quality and the teachers’ own education had no impact on children’s blood pressure or BMI.
Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of UK campaign group Early Education, said the research chimed with other studies on the social and emotional benefits of early years education on later life. “It’s a helpful reminder that early education is about the child as a whole person, not just about a narrow focus on academic studies,” she said.
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Nursery attendance linked to better GCSE grades and higher pay – 9 September 2014