By Claire West

Learning a language or brushing up on your maths skills in your spare time can boost your life satisfaction in the same way as a £750 a year pay rise, according to new research.

That was one of the findings from research carried out by leading academics into the benefits of adult learning, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which also found:

People who take an adult learning course, ranging from an art class to improving IT skills, have better health, are less likely to be depressed and visit their GP less regularly

Those with poor basic skills tend to have worse health: for example, people who struggle with maths are three times more likely to have health problems
Learning boosts self-confidence and raises people’s aspirations, with those taking part more likely to further their career and expect higher salaries
People in their fifties and sixties also benefit, with learning offsetting a natural decline in wellbeing as we age.
Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said:

“Poor basic skills contribute to a downward spiral for too many people preventing them from reaching their potential. That is why we are funding free maths and English GCSEs for all adults who need them, and for those requiring maths and English in apprenticeships.

“This research shows how adult learning, whether it’s a course to further someone’s career or an evening class for enjoyment, has the potential to change lives for the better, whilst also creating a highly-skilled nation that will help businesses to get the skills they need to grow and boost our international competitiveness.”

Fiona Aldridge, Head of Learning for Work at NIACE, said,

“Time and time again, adult learners and those who work with them, tell us about the many benefits that they experience as a result of taking part in learning. In particular, the stories of learners nominated for Adult Learners’ Week awards provide powerful accounts of the wide-ranging impact that learning can have on people’s confidence and self-esteem, their health and well-being, their family and parenting, their employability and career prospects and their involvement in their community.

“We are extremely pleased that this series of reports provides further systematic evidence of the extent of the benefits that adults can experience as a result of their learning. We look forward to seeing how this will underpin practice and policy across government going forward.”

The research looked at how people taking adult learning courses would rate their boost in happiness in terms of money. Using data from the British Household Panel Survey, it concluded that one course would improve life satisfaction in the same way as a pay rise of around £750.

The other studies looked into areas including the relationship between adult learning and wellbeing, the contribution of basic skills on health in adults and the impact of learning on the wellbeing of older people.