NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 23, 2008

Quit smoking.  Turn off the computer.  Go to bed.  It could improve your grades.  Of course, parents have always known that, but researchers at the University of Minnesota have proved it.  They matched grade point averages with the typical health problems such as smoking, drinking and stress reported by nearly 10,000 Minnesota college students and found a clear connection between student health and academic success.

What affects grades the most?  The number one culprit is stress, and lots of it.  Researchers found that:

  • Nearly 69 percent of college students reported that they were stressed and 32.9 percent of those students said that stress was hurting their academic performance.
  • Students who reported eight or more emotional stresses -- anything from failing a class to credit card debt to a conflict with parents -- had an average GPA of 2.72.
  • Those who said they had no significant stress reported an average GPA of 3.3.
  • The ability to handle stress was equally important; those who said they could effectively manage it performed much better than those who said they couldn't.

Excessive screen time, binge drinking and gambling also affect grades, say researchers:

  • Four or more hours of screen time a day resulted in an average GPA of 3.04 or less.
  • Less than an hour a day bumped it up to 3.3 or better.
  • The same pattern held with binge drinking; teetotalers reported an average GPA of 3.31.
  • This compared with 2.99 for students who drank excessively at least once in the previous two weeks.

"Health is important," even for young adults who seem to be in the prime of their lives, says Dr. Ed Ehlinger, lead author of the study.  Both parents and college administrators "need to make sure that students have access to health care," he adds.

Source: Josephine Marcotty, "Your mom and dad are right: Good Health = better grades," Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 19, 2008; Ed Ehlinger, et al., "Health and Academic Performance: Minnesota Undergraduate Students," University of Minnesota, October 2008.


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