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Education is the process of learning through facilitating institutions, such as school, university or through apprenticeships (1). Education can also happen outside of formal institutions. Informal education is non-instructive, develops through the learner’s initiative, and builds on the learner’s interests (2). There are many important aspects of education which shape the learning experience and mental health outcomes, including years of schooling, qualifications, quality of teaching, and aspects of the school environment.



Risk and/or Protective Factor

A good basic education can have a lasting effect on decreasing depressive symptoms (3). Length of schooling is a protective factor and one additional year of schooling has been associated with a reduction in mental health disorders (4). Educational attainment, including completing education, has been linked to mental health, both directly and through increased access to rewarding, well-paid jobs (5,6). On the other hand, leaving school without formal qualifications has been linked to an increased risk of mental health difficulties (7).

Education that is accessible, inclusive and of high quality creates a positive learning environment, which has been associated with improved well-being (8). Children and young people who are excluded from school are more likely to have a mental health difficulty than those who are included (9,10).

Negative school environments and conditions, like the pressure to perform on standardised tests can increase symptoms of anxiety and distress (11). School transitions can be an area of concern for children and young people, and has been associated with increased stress, social isolation, anxiety and depression (12). Environment can also be shaped by the wellbeing of teachers, and poor mental health in teachers has been associated with disruptions to learning (13).



1.        Cambridge Dictionary. Education meaning in English [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jan 11]. Available from:

2.        Rogoff B, Callanan M, Gutiérrez KD, Erickson F. The Organization of Informal Learning. Rev Res Educ. 2016;40(1):356–401.

3.        Assari S. Combined racial and gender differences in the long-term predictive role of education on depressive symptoms and chronic medical conditions. J Racial Ethn Heal Disparities [Internet]. 2017 Jun 7 [cited 2021 Jan 27];4(3):385–96. Available from:

4.        Jiang W, Lu Y, Xie H. Education and mental health: Evidence and mechanisms. J Econ Behav Organ [Internet]. 2020 Dec 1 [cited 2021 Feb 2];180:407–37. Available from:

5.        UCL Institute of Health Equity. Voluntary Sector Action on the Social Determinants of Health [Internet]. London; 2017 [cited 2021 Jan 27]. Available from:

6.        Everett BG, Rehkopf DH, Rogers RG. The Nonlinear Relationship Between Education and Mortality: An Examination of Cohort, Race/Ethnic, and Gender Differences. Popul Res Policy Rev [Internet]. 2013 Dec 2 [cited 2021 Jan 27];32(6):893–917. Available from:

7.        Fergusson DM, McLeod G, Horwood J. Leaving school without qualifications and mental health problems to age 30. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol Vol. 2014;50:469–478.

8.        Helou MA, Keiser V, Feldman M, Santen S, Cyrus JW, Ryan MS. Student well-being and the learning environment. Clin Teach [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2021 Feb 17];16(4):362–6. Available from:

9.        Gill K. Making The Difference: Breaking the link between school exclusion and social exclusion. [Internet]. 2017. Available from:

10.      Ford T, Parker C, Salim J, Goodman R, Logan S, Henley W. The relationship between exclusion from school and mental health: A secondary analysis of the British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Surveys 2004 and 2007. Psychol Med [Internet]. 2018 Mar 1 [cited 2021 Jan 26];48(4):629–41. Available from:

11.      McDonald AS. The prevalence and effects of test anxiety in school children. Educ Psychol. 2001;21(1):89–101.

12.      Roberts J. Improving School Transitions For Health Equity [Internet]. London; 2015 [cited 2021 Feb 2]. Available from:

13.      Glazzard J, Rose A. The impact of teacher wellbeing and mental health on pupil progress in primary schools. 2019.