Procrastination is linked to poorer mental and physical health

Summary: Procrastination is associated with increased anxiety, stress, pain, unhealthy lifestyles, and delays in seeking help for common health problems.

source: conversation

University students have a lot of freedom but not a lot of structure. This can be bad for habitual procrastinators. Studies have shown that at least half of university students procrastinate to a level that is potentially harmful to their education.

But this may not be the only negative consequence of postponing things till a later date. Studies have found a correlation between procrastination and poor health. It is associated with high levels of stress, unhealthy lifestyles and delays in seeing a doctor about health problems.

However, these studies – by the nature of their design – cannot tell us the direction of the relationship. Does procrastination lead to poor physical and mental health because people, say, put off starting a new exercise regime or seeing a doctor about a health problem? Or is it the other way around? Does poor physical health lead people to procrastinate because they just don’t have the energy to act?

To try to solve this conundrum, we conducted a longitudinal study – that is, a study that follows people for a period of time, taking measurements at different points in the study. We recruited 3,525 students from eight universities in and around Stockholm and asked them to complete questionnaires every three months for a year.

Our study, published in jama network open, aimed to investigate whether students who procrastinate are at higher risk of poor mental and physical health. Of the 3,525 students we recruited, 2,587 answered a follow-up questionnaire nine months later, where several health outcomes were measured.

To understand how procrastination is related to later health outcomes, students with a higher procrastination at the beginning of the study were compared with students with a lower procrastination. The results showed that higher levels of procrastination were associated with somewhat higher symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress nine months later.

Students with higher levels of procrastination were more likely to report disabling pain in the shoulders or arms (or both), poorer sleep quality, greater loneliness, and greater financial difficulties. These associations remained even when we took into account other factors that could have influenced the association, such as age, gender, parental education level, and previous physical and psychiatric diagnoses.

Although no specific health outcome was strongly associated with procrastination, the results suggest that procrastination may be important for a wide range of health outcomes, including mental health problems, disabling pain, and unhealthy lifestyles.

Does procrastination lead to poor physical and mental health because people, say, put off starting a new exercise regime or seeing a doctor about a health problem? Or is it the other way around? image is in the public domain

As noted above, in the earlier studies, participants were assessed at only one point in time, making it difficult to know which condition came first: procrastination or poor health. By having students answer the questionnaire at multiple time points, we could be sure that high procrastination levels were present before their health was measured.

But it is still possible that other factors not accounted for in our analysis may explain the association between procrastination and subsequent poor health outcomes. Our results are not proof of cause and effect, but they suggest it more strongly than earlier “cross-sectional” studies.

it can be treated

There is good news for habitual procrastinators. Clinical trials (the gold standard of medical research) have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in reducing procrastination.

Treatment helps the person break down long-term goals into short-term goals, manage distractions (such as turning off the mobile phone), and focus on the task at hand despite experiencing negative emotions.

This requires some effort, so it’s not something a single person can do while trying to meet a specific deadline. But even small changes can have a big impact. You can try it yourself. Why not start today by leaving your mobile phone in another room when you need to concentrate on a task.

About this procrastination and mental health research news

Author: Eva Skillgate, Alexander Rosenthal and Fred Johansson
source: conversation
contact: Eva Skillgate, Alexander Rosenthal and Fred Johansson – The Conversation
image: image is in the public domain

Basic Research: open access.
“The association between procrastination and subsequent health outcomes among university students in Sweden” by Fred Johansson et al. jama network open


Summary

Association between procrastination and subsequent health outcomes among university students in Sweden.

importance

Procrastination is prevalent among university students and is hypothesized to lead to adverse health consequences. Previous cross-sectional research suggests that procrastination is associated with mental and physical health outcomes, but longitudinal evidence is currently scarce.

purpose

see all

It shows a model of a human with the intestines highlighted.

To evaluate the association between procrastination and subsequent health outcomes among university students in Sweden.

Design, setting, and participants

This cohort study was based on the Sustainable University Life study conducted between August 19, 2019 and December 15, 2021, in which university students were recruited from 8 universities in the Greater Stockholm area and Örebro at 5 time points over 1 year was brought up. , The current study used data on 3525 students from 3 time points to assess whether procrastination was associated with poorer health outcomes 9 months later.

contagion

Self-reported procrastination, measured using 5 items from the Swedish version of the Pure Procrastination Scale, rated on a Likert scale from 1 (“very rarely or does not represent me”) to 5 (“very often or always represents me is”) and summed to give a total procrastination score from 5 to 25.

Key Results and Measures

Sixteen self-reported health outcomes were assessed at 9-month follow-up. These include mental health problems (depression, anxiety and tension symptoms), disabling pain (neck and/or upper back, low back, upper limbs and lower limbs), unhealthy lifestyle behaviors (poor sleep quality, physical inactivity, tobacco use). , cannabis use, alcohol use, and skipping breakfast), psychosocial health factors (loneliness and economic difficulties), and general health.

result

The study included 3525 participants (2229 women) [63%], Meaning [SD] age, 24.8 [6.2] years), with a follow-up rate of 73% (n = 2587) after 9 months. The mean (SD) latency score at baseline was 12.9 (5.4). 1 SD increase in procrastination was associated with depression (β, 0.13; 95% CI, 0.09–0.17), anxiety (β, 0.08; 95% CI, 0.04–0.12), and stress (β, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.08–0.15) ), and disabling upper extremity pain (risk ratio) [RR], 1.27; 95% CI, 1.14–1.42), poor 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, 1.02–1.12), and economic difficulties (RR, 1.15, 95% CI, 1.02–1.30) at 9-month follow-up, after controlling for a large set of potential confounders.

Conclusion and Relevance

The study of this group of Swedish university students suggests that procrastination is associated with later mental health problems, disabling pain, unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and worse psychosocial health factors. Given that procrastination is prevalent among university students, these findings may be important for increasing the understanding of student health.

Leave a Comment