College students who do not take proper sleep, excessively sit before television or computer screens, suffer from stress, gamble, use alcohol or tobacco, or suffer from other health-related issues do not fare well in academics, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service claim that their study is the first to show a direct link between health-related behaviours and grades.
"Our study shows that there is a direct link between college students' health and their academic achievement. This is the first time that anything like this has been published where Grade Point Average is linked to all these behaviours," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the director and chief health officer of the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service.
Titled, "Health and Academic Performance: Minnesota Undergraduate Students," the study involved almost 24,000 students from 14 Minnesota colleges and universities. Nearly 9,931 participants completed the 2007 College Student Health Survey Report.
The study was limited to undergraduate students from two-year and four-year institutions and it included all five University of Minnesota campuses.
The results showed that 69.9 percent of college students were stressed and 32.9 percent of them said that stress was taking a toll on their academic performance.
The mean GPA for students saying stress impacted their academics was 3.12, as against 3.23 mean GPA for students who didn't believe it was affecting their academics.
"While this may seem like a small difference in GPA, when you are looking at over 9,000 students the impact of this difference is huge," said Ehlinger.
Also, 20 percent of students said that sleep difficulties impacted their academics, and had a mean GPA of 3.08 compared with a 3.27 mean GPA for those who do not report sleep deficiencies.
"The more days students get adequate sleep - the better GPAs they attain. There is a direct link between the two," said Ehlinger.
A total of 30.4 percent of students surveyed reported excessive screen time, out of which 13 percent reported that it impacted their studies and had a lower mean GPA of 3.04 compared with a mean GPA of 3.27 for those who said the problem didn't have any effect on them.
"Turning off the computer or TV and going to sleep is one of the best things our students can do to improve their grades," said Ehlinger.
Pupils who said that they had smoked during the past 30 days had a 3.12 mean GPA compared with a 3.28 mean GPA for students who reported not smoking.
In fact, the study came out with surprising information for those who even smoke infrequently.
"Even students who smoked once or twice in a month had lower GPAs than those who didn't smoke. Using tobacco to calm down or 'to be social' is lowering students' grades," said Ehlinger.
The authors believe that the results will not only urge college students to change behaviour, but will also make colleges to pay more attention to the health of their students.