Summary: Procrastination is associated with increased anxiety, depression, pain, unhealthy lifestyles, and delays in seeking medical care.
University students have a lot of freedom but not much creativity. This can be bad for procrastinators. Studies have shown that almost half of university students procrastinate to the point where it can harm their studies.
But this may not be the only negative effect of putting things off until another day. Research has found a link between procrastination and poor health. It is associated with high levels of stress, unhealthy lifestyles and delays in seeing a doctor.
However, these studies – by nature of their design – cannot tell us how the relationship is progressing. Does procrastination lead to poor physical and mental health because people, for example, hesitate to start exercising or see a doctor about a particular health problem? Or is it the other way around? Does getting sick, say, cause people to procrastinate because they don’t have the energy to do the job now?
In order to solve this riddle, we conducted a longitudinal study – that is, a study that followed people over a period of time, testing at different points in the study. We recruited 3,525 students from eight universities in and around Stockholm and asked them to complete a questionnaire every three months for one year.
Our study, published in JAMA Network Open, the purpose of which was to investigate whether students who procrastinate have a greater risk of poor mental and physical health. Of the 3,525 participants we recruited, 2,587 answered follow-up questions nine months later, when several health outcomes were measured.
To understand the impact of procrastination on health outcomes, students with a high tendency to procrastinate (as measured by the procrastination scale) at the beginning of the study were compared to students with a low tendency. The results showed that increased procrastination was associated with higher symptoms of depression, anxiety and depression after nine months.
Students who procrastinate more are also more likely to report shoulder or arm pain (or both), poor sleep, loneliness and financial problems. These associations remained even when we took into account other factors that could influence this association, such as age, gender, parental education, and previous physical and mental health conditions.
Although there are no specific health outcomes associated with procrastination, the results suggest that procrastination may be important for a variety of health outcomes, including psychological problems, chronic pain, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
As mentioned above, in the first studies, the participants were tested at the same time, which makes it difficult to determine which came first: procrastination or illness. By having participants answer the questions multiple times, we can be sure that significant procrastination was present before measuring their health.
But it is still possible that other factors not explained in our analysis may explain the relationship between delay and health outcomes. Our results are not proof of cause and effect, but they show a stronger effect than the previous “combination” studies.
It can be cured
There is good news for procrastinators. Clinical trials (the gold standard of clinical research) have shown that behavioral therapy is effective in reducing procrastination.
The therapy helps the person deal with procrastination by breaking down long-term goals into smaller goals, managing distractions (such as turning off cell phones), and staying focused on tasks despite negative thoughts.
This requires effort, so it’s not something one can do when trying to meet a deadline. But even a small change can have a big impact. You can try it yourself. Why not start today and leave your cell phone in the other room when you need to focus on work.
About procrastination and psychiatric research
Author: Eva Skillgate, Alexander Rozental, and Fred Johansson
Contact: Eva Skillgate, Alexander Rozental, and Fred Johansson – The Conversation
Image: This photo is public
Preliminary Research: Open the opportunity.
“Relationships Between Procrastination and Subsequent Health Outcomes Among University Students in Sweden” by Fred Johansson et al. JAMA Network Open
The Relationship Between Procrastination and Subsequent Health Outcomes Among Swedish University Students
Procrastination is widespread among university students and has been estimated to have negative health consequences. Previous research has shown that procrastination is associated with mental and physical health outcomes, but long-term evidence is lacking.
Examining the relationship between procrastination and health outcomes among university students in Sweden.
Design, Implementation, and Participants
This group study was based on the Sustainable University Life survey, which took place between August 19, 2019, and December 15, 2021, where university students were also taken from 8 universities in the greater Stockholm area and Örebro were followed 5 times in one year. . The current study used data on 3525 students from the 3rd period to see if procrastination is associated with negative health outcomes after 9 months.
Self-reported procrastination, measured using 5 items from the Swedish version of the Pure Procrastination Scale rated on a Likert scale from 1 (“rarely or never”) to 5 (“often or always”) and summarized to give a total score of procrastination from 5 to 25.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Sixteen self-reported health outcomes were assessed at the 9-month follow-up. These included psychological disorders (symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress), neck pain (neck and/or upper back, lower back, upper, and lower), unhealthy lifestyle (lack of sleep, lack of exercise, smoking). , marijuana use, alcohol consumption, and skipping breakfast), social factors (loneliness and financial problems), and general health.
The study included 3525 people (2229 women). [63%]; meaning [SD] age, 24.8 [6.2] years), and a follow-up rate of 73% (n = 2587) 9 months later. The mean (SD) delay at baseline was 12.9 (5.4). A 1 SD increase in procrastination was associated with higher symptoms of depression (β, 0.13; 95% CI, 0.09–0.17), anxiety (β, 0.08; 95% CI, 0.04–0.12), and depression (β, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.04–0.12). % CI, 0.08-0.15), and having upper back pain (hazard ratio [RR], 1.27; 95% CI, 1.14-1.42), sleep quality (RR, 1.09, 95% CI, 1.05-1.14), physical inactivity (RR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.04-1.11), loneliness (RR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.04-1.11) %) CI, 1.02-1.12), and financial problems (RR, 1.15, 95% CI, 1.02-1.30) at the 9-month follow-up, after controlling for major confounding groups.
Completion and Importance
A group study of Swedish university students shows that procrastination is associated with psychological problems, disabling pain, unhealthy lifestyle habits, and psychological problems. Given that procrastination is prevalent among university students, these findings may be important to help understand student health.