Procrastination Is Linked to Poor Mental and Physical Health

Summary: Exercise is associated with increased stress, anxiety, pain, poor quality of life, and delays in seeking help for general health problems.

Source: The conversation

College students have a lot of freedom but not a lot of organization. This can be bad for early adopters. Studies have shown that at least half of college students procrastinate to a level that can harm their education.

But this may not be the only negative consequence of putting things off until another day. Research has found a link between exercise and poor health. It is associated with high stress, unhealthy lifestyle and delay in seeing a doctor about health problems.

However, these studies – by the nature of their structure – 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 routine or seeing a doctor about health problems? Or the other way around? Is poor physical health, say, leading people to exercise because they don’t have the energy to do the job right now?

To try to solve this riddle, we conduct longitudinal studies – that is, studies that follow people for a certain 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 fill out questionnaires every three months for a year.

Our study, published in Open JAMA Network, to investigate if students who procrastinate have a greater risk of poor mental and physical health. Of the 3,525 students we recruited, 2,587 answered the follow-up questionnaire nine months later, where several health outcomes were measured.

In order to understand how resilience affects later health outcomes, students with high interest in turning (as achieved in withdrawal) at the beginning of the study were compared to students with low attitudes. The results showed that higher levels of reactivity were associated with higher symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress after nine months.

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Students with high levels of withdrawal are also more likely to report pain in the shoulder or arm (or both), worse sleep habits, loneliness and financial difficulties. These associations persisted even after we took into account other factors that may have influenced the association, such as age, gender, parental education level, and previous physical and mental health screenings.

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 mental health problems, debilitating pain and poor quality of life. better.

This shows a man fixed on a pin board
Does procrastination lead to poor physical and mental health because people, say, put off starting a new exercise routine or seeing a doctor about health problems? Or the other way around? Photo in public domain

As mentioned above, in the first study, the participants were analyzed at the same time, making it difficult to distinguish which of the conditions came first: interruption or not strength. By having students answer the questionnaire several times, we can make sure that a high level of quality is present before we measure their health.

But it is still possible that other factors that were not documented in our research may explain the relationship between withdrawal and subsequent health outcomes. Our results are not proof of cause and effect, but they are more suggestive than previous “cross-sectional” studies.

It can be treated

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

The treatment helps the person overcome procrastination by breaking down long-term goals into short-term goals, controlling distractions (such as turning off the cell phone), and focusing on tasks at hand. however it feels negative.

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This requires some effort, so it is not something that one can do when trying to meet the deadline. But even small changes can have a big impact. You can try it yourself. Why don’t you start today by leaving your cell phone in another room when you want to focus on one task.

About this delay in mental health research reports

Author: Eva Skillgate, Alexander Rozental, and Fred Johansson
Source: The conversation
Contact: Eva Skillgate, Alexander Rozental, and Fred Johansson – The Conversation
Photo: This image is in the public domain

Preliminary investigation: Open the opportunity.
“The relationship between procrastination and subsequent health outcomes among university students in Sweden” by Fred Johansson et al. Open JAMA Network


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


Relapses are common among college students and are thought to have serious health consequences. Previous studies show that exercise is associated with mental and physical health outcomes, but long-term evidence is currently scarce.


See also

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To investigate the relationship between procrastination and subsequent health outcomes among university students in Sweden.

Design, organization and participants

This group study is based on the Sustainable University Life study, which was conducted between August 19, 2019 and December 15, 2021, in which university students from 8 universities in the greater Stockholm area and Örebro followed 5 key points over a year . . The present study uses data on 3525 students from the 3rd period to determine if it is associated with interruptions and worse health outcomes 9 months later.

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Self-reported procrastination, measured using 5 items from the Swedish version of the White Procrastination Scale, rated on a Likert scale from 1 (“rarely or not at all for me”) to 5 (“often but it’s always representing me”) and summed to give a total feedback score from 5 to 25.

Key results and procedures

Sixteen people’s self-reported health outcomes were assessed at 9-month follow-up. These included mental health problems (symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress), pain disorders (neck and/or upper back , back, upper body, and lower extremities), poor lifestyle (poor sleep, physical inactivity, smoking). , cannabis use, alcohol consumption, and skipping breakfast), mental health factors (cotton and economic hardship), and overall health.


The study included 3525 participants (2229 women [63%]; appeared [SD] age, 24.8 [6.2] years), and a follow-up of 73% (n = 2587) 9 months later. The standard deviation (SD) of the index was 12.9 (5.4). An increase of 1 SD in delay was associated with higher symptom levels of 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 having upper extremity pain disability (high risk [RR], 1.27; 95% CI. CI, 1.02-1.12), and economic problems (RR, 1.15, 95% CI, 1.02-1.30) at 9-month follow-up, when controlling for major confounders.

Decisions and needs

This cohort study of Swedish university students suggests that reactivity is associated with subsequent mental health problems, pain disability, poor quality of life, and factors that contribute to poor mental health. . Considering that procrastination is common among university students, these findings may be important to improve the understanding of student health.


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