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Lack of sleep, smoking, make for poor GPA

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | November 3rd, 2008

A new study released last week concluded that a lack of sleep, excess television viewing, stress, alcohol and smoking are taking a toll on students' academic performance.

This is the first study done of its kind where a wide range of health issues were examined.

“There have been studies that have looked at how alcohol use affects Grade Point Average (GPA) but we are unaware of any reports that have looked at a broad range of health issues and their impact on GPA,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the Director and Chief Officer of the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service.

This study is part one of a larger comprehensive study concerning college students' health in the United States. Approximately 24,000 students were randomly selected from 14 Minnesota colleges and universities to take part in this one of a kind study. Nine thousand nine hundred and thirty one students completed the 2007 College Student Health Survey Report. The results included students currently enrolled in two or four-year post-secondary institutions; five university campuses took part in the survey.

Other outcomes regarding the study were quite a shock for the predictions originally anticipated by the research team.

“We were also surprised that whereas ‘last 12 month' experience with chronic illness, sexual assault, domestic violence, and mental illness had an impact on GPA, and ‘lifetime experiences' did not,” said Ehlinger.

“This speaks to the resiliency of students and to the impact of services provided for these issues. The impact of smoking on GPA was more powerful than we anticipated and the link with ‘screen time outside of work or academics' was also very powerful.”

The end results of the survey concluded with 69.9 per cent of college students saying they felt stressed and 32.9 per cent of those same students admitted that the stress was in fact hurting their academic scores.

Roughly 20 per cent of students observed reported that a lack of sleep was to blame for their poorer than average academic scores. Those students had an average GPA of 3.08 compared to students who got an adequate amount of sleep scoring an average of 3.27 on their school performance.

“Turning off the television and going to sleep is one of the best things our students can do to improve their grades,” said Ehlinger.

There are recommendations for students to help improve their abilities with maintaining a good GPA while at college or university.

According to the study, if students cut back on screen time and use that time to sleep or exercise, they may be able to improve their academic standing. They can now see that there are some simple, if not easy, steps that they can take to improve their GPA. Also, if faculty and administrators pay attention to the health of students' on-campus, the school can better achieve its educational mission.

Ehlinger has high hopes that this study's results will steer students in the right direction when it comes to obtaining a higher than average GPA.

“Where we released data related to the tobacco use rates among college students, we saw various agencies in the U.S. begin to take tobacco use by college students seriously. We saw a marked decline in smoking.

“We've already seen some discussion about the ‘screen time' issue and believe that this will be one where students will make some changes,” Ehlinger said.

The report included many other factors some of which concern mental health, health insurance, physical activity levels, financial issues, drug use, injury, sexual assault and also alcohol use.

“We hope this information helps students make wise decisions,” said Ehlinger. If you're investing a lot of time and money in your education, do you really want to waste your investment on behaviours that interfere with your academic success?”

“We will be looking at the same issues in our next survey which will be coming out later this year.”
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