Last Updated on February 24, 2021

No matter what our age, learning and continuing to develop our skills and knowledge is something that, as adults, we should all seek to do for a number of reasons.

The benefits of adult learning and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) include better mental health and well-being. Let’s look in detail below at the key benefits.

The benefits of adult learning and education

1. Adult Learning Is Good for Mental Health and Happiness

A number of studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between adult learning and better mental health, both in academic studies and from research from the likes of the UK Office of National Statistics. The benefits of getting involved with learning as an adult, in fact, have shown to include:

  • a greater sense of identity
  • higher ability to cope with life and to have a greater sense of purpose
  • a general greater sense of overall happiness

Whether you decide to start studying a language using online lessons, decide to do an evening class on web publishing, or join a regular weekend course on gardening skills, the benefits should not be underestimated.

Whatever you learn, it can give you a sense of purpose and sense of accomplishment.

2. Social Connections and Interpersonal Skills

Adult education students

The opportunity to socialise, meeting new people and friends who share the same interest, was stated as being one of the key benefits of adult learning, in a survey we recently did.

There are many ways to get out there and meet new and interesting people and studying a topic that you find fun and interesting is certainly an easy way to meet like-minded people.

Furthermore, whether studied in a classroom or online, the chance to interact and keep mentally active is an extremely positive benefit derived from adult learning and education.

It can be very easy, as we get older, to isolate ourselves more and more, particularly if we lack many family members. Continuing Professional Education (CPE) and Development (CPD) certainly provide a vehicle for avoiding isolation.

3. Improved Confidence and Self-Esteem

Confident adult students

Depending, of course, on what topic you choose to study, there are numerous opportunities to develop more self-confidence, self-esteem and self of worth, through adult classes and workshops.

Whether it is the qualification you gain that makes you feel more worthy, or the skills themselves, it means a chance to develop positively.

Certain skills, such as those that involve having to stand and talk in front of others, can be especially good for confidence. Presentation Skills and Public Speaking Skills are especially useful to consider if building confidence is your goal.

One of our favourite organisations for learning public speaking skills in an extremely friendly environment is Toastmasters.

They hold workshops worldwide and membership is very affordable. Whether you want to learn public speaking for:

  • a best man’s speech
  • giving a eulogy at a funeral
  • presentations at work
  • learning speaking skills for social events

then Toastmasters is great. They run weekly meetings in cities around the world on a regular basis.

4. Crime Reduction and Lifelong Education

A quite profound finding by the British Government (and detailed in their guide on lifelong learning), points to one of the key benefits of adult learning as helping to reduce crime.

When the topic of adult learning comes up, the connection with crime reduction is often ignored and yet, education is known to help reduce crime.

This perhaps seems obvious given that, as the Prison Reform Trust in the UK state:

At its best, prison education can open up opportunities, enlighten people, broaden their horizons and build their self-confidence. It can increase their awareness of options, giving them a real choice of a life away from crime. Education can open up the legitimate means of achieving success.

Prison Reform Trust UK

5. Employment and Life Opportunities

Learning gardening skills

It would be wrong of us not to include one of the more obvious benefits here as we discuss the benefits of adult learning.

Continuing your professional development certainly can provide you with new skills and these, in turn, can create genuine employment and life opportunities for you.

6. An Active Mind Is a Healthier Mind

You may or may not have heard of the term ‘Cognitive Footprint’, a term that refers to our minds over our lifetime, or put another way, the lifetime of our own mind.

Some studies have suggested (although it cannot be determined with certainty) that learning is thought to ward off dementia.

Keeping the mind active and training the brain matter to keep it working is compared, by some scientists, to being like exercising your physical body by doing regular yoga.

Learning, in other words, is thought to slow down the deterioration of the mind.

Likewise- doing crosswords and word puzzles are thought to be good for giving our brain-matter a workout of sorts.

In fact, adult learning sometimes can be something as simple as being sat with a dictionary and crossword puzzle.

Doing group classes though as a part of adult learning will give you additional benefits, such as the social interactions we discussed earlier.

7. Leading by Example and Inspiring Others

Perhaps not the first reason most of us get involved with adult learning and education, but nonetheless, a very valuable benefit for adult learning, is the chance to inspire others and to lead by example.

This benefit is often combined with others such as developing one’s own career opportunities and skills.

A recent example I personally came across of doing education to lead by example, was a neighbour who started night classes in engineering.

Simon had two very clear reasons in his mind for wanting to start the evening classes and these were to:

  • Inspire his three young children
  • See if he could follow his dream of being an engineer

As a taxi-driver with dreams of working as an engineer, Simon would look at his children every day and wonder how he could honestly expect his children to follow their dreams when he knew that he, himself, was giving in to the fear of change and really not being what he dreamed of.

Four years ago, Simon completed his qualification in engineering and he has now moved from taxi-driver to working as an engineer in Birmingham, England.

The last time I saw Simon he remarked that if we can do it (considering he left school with no real qualifications), anyone can and that his kids will now see that you have to follow your dreams.

Certainly, one of the key benefits of adult learning is the chance to inspire others!

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Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds

Valeria has been involved with education for over 16 years. She has taught in the UK at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (where she got her PhD), in addition to working as a researcher at Exeter University. Valeria additionally has several years of experience of also working with Ofsted and Cardiff University in management roles & is she is the founder of Symonds Training.