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Good for your soul? Adult learning and mental well-being

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Although there is a widely held view that adult learning has a positive impact on well-being, only recently has this proposition been systematically tested. A review of recent research confirms that adult learning has a clear influence on earnings and employability, both of which may influence well-being indirectly. These are more important for some groups than others: in economically advanced societies, additional earnings produce limited gains in well-being for most groups except the poorest, while employability is most significant for groups that are most vulnerable in the labour market. Recent studies have also shown that participating in learning in adult life has a positive direct influence on well-being. Quantitative studies suggest that the influence is comparatively small, but it is nevertheless significant. There has been less investigation into the negative consequences of learning for well-being, and the paper draws on current qualitative data to illustrate some of these less desirable influences. It concludes by identifying areas for further research, and outlining a number of implications for policy and practice. These are particularly important in the current context, where environmental movements appear to be challenging the primacy of economic growth as the overarching goal of policy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Stirling, UK

Publication date: 01 March 2009

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