People with postgraduate degrees say they learn something new or do something interesting every day. And that can lead to a richer, more fulfilling life.
Earning a graduate degree is certainly a smart career move.
Whether it's an online MBA to advance your business career, a master's in criminal justice to prepare for a leadership position in law enforcement, or even a degree in cybersecurity or instructional design to move into a new career field altogether, there are obvious professional and financial benefits to earning a graduate degree.
But consider this.
Nearly three-quarters of postgraduate degree holders say they learn something new every day. They consider themselves lifelong learners.
And the benefits of lifelong learning extend far beyond the workplace – and can last throughout one's entire life.
Postgrads have lifelong learning edge
A recent Gallup Poll shows that nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults who have education beyond a bachelor's degree feel that they learn something new or do something interesting every day.
According to the data collected from more than 250,000 adults in the U.S. for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, when asked to rate how much they agree with the idea that the learn or do something new every day, 74 percent of the respondents with postgraduate experience or a degree strongly agreed; 66 percent of respondents with a bachelor's degree agreed, 65 percent for those with some college or an associate degree agreed; and 63 percent of adults with a high school education or less agreed.
While the poll showed that the majority of Americans, regardless of education level, agree that they learn or do something interesting every day, according to Gallup, "it was not until the postgraduate level that there is a meaningful difference in terms of someone believing that he or she gets to learn or do something interesting day."
Perhaps that's because people with postgraduate experience tend to challenge themselves academically. They value learning and new experiences.
They have insatiable curiosity.
Lifelong learning benefits brain and body
Sure, in the short-term, being a lifelong learner enables you to meet new challenges and to adapt to change at work and in life. Reading, searching for new information on the internet, asking questions and seeking out discussions, attending lectures and cultural events, taking courses and workshops, keeps your mind sharp and contributes to your current well-being.
But many experts agree that the benefits of learning continue throughout one's life. In fact, gerontological research shows that an active mind stimulates better health.
Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M.Ed, author of "Learning Later Living Greater," says that scientific research over the past two decades indicates that a challenged, stimulated brain can lead to a more engaged and healthier later life.
Paul Nussbaum, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist and expert on aging and health promotion, says that the human brain wants to be stimulated and to engage in new and complex activities. Be it learning a new language, travelling to new places, reading, writing or any creative pursuit, doing new and interesting things contributes to better mental health and overall well-being.
And according to Dr. Gabriela Baeza, a family medicine physician at the Rush University Medical Center, the human brain continues to develop through and beyond middle age and studies indicate that it's beneficial to make learning a lifelong pursuit. The Rush Memory and Aging Project has shown that cognitively active seniors were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and dementia than senior with less cognitive activity.
An enriched life
So will a master's or doctoral degree guarantee that you will do great things decades from now?
Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book at age 64 and the last in her best-selling "Little House" series at 73. Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa at 76. Grandma Moses started painting at 76.
And none of them had graduate degrees.
But if you do have a graduate degree, chances are your love of learning will continue to keep your mind sharp and engaged and enrich your life for years to come.
Do you consider yourself a lifelong learner?
Image Credit: Angela Waye on Shutterstock.com
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