Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York looked at the relationship between intensive early education and adult health by building on data from the Carolina Abecedarian Project -- a randomized controlled study that enrolled 111 infants in the 1970s and continued to track them through age 21.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, indicate people who had received the intensive education intervention starting in infancy had significantly better health and better health behaviors as young adults.
"What we have found is that this educational intervention also reduced health risks like smoking and improved health outcomes as early as age 21. The health benefits were quite dramatic," study principal investigator Dr. Peter Muennig says in a statement.
Muennig says the study findings provide causal evidence in support of the hypothesis that early education enhancements may improve income, reduce crime and even enhance the global competitiveness of the American workforce.
"These interventions may be more cost effective than many traditional medical and public health approaches to improving population health," he says.