Dr Chandola said: "Our research shows that although a larger proportion of people are acquiring degree level educational qualifications, this may not directly or automatically lead to better adult health.
"We must not assume that investment in education is a panacea. If policies aimed at improving education also adversely affect any of the other combination of factors involved they will fail, or have far less of an impact on health than was expected." The study warns that as more people obtain degree level qualifications, even the improvements in health now attributed to going through higher education may no longer apply.
Dr Chandola said: "When it comes to encouraging healthy behaviour, we need to focus on people's everyday working and social lives as adults. Our research has found that a rise in educational attainment may not automatically lead to improvements in people's health. Policies for improving health and reducing inequalities need to target specific causes."
He added: "Apart from providing evidence on what types of policies may reduce the association between education and health, our study also suggests when interventions are most useful.
"There are high returns associated with taking action in childhood and adolescence. Improving health in childhood and adolescence results in higher educational achievement and healthier adults."