Research has proven that anxiety and depression are negative factors that can affect academic performance. Students regularly report high levels of stress as they go about their normal day with approximately one-third of university students suffering from depression (Awadallah et al.2020).
While school students head back to school, young people who have finished school commence that critical transition period from school to university or college. It is therefore always timely to think about the relationship between study stress, mental health issues, poor academic outcomes and poor life outcomes.
While we recognize that not all stress is bad, research has shown that ongoing, unrelenting stress that the student begins to feel they cannot manage or begins to feel overwhelmed, can be considered ‘study stress’. It is usually experienced in relation to studies, studying, worrying about grades or tests or in completing homework or assignments.
Study stress can negatively impact young people’s mental health which in turn affects their academic performance and a range of outcomes in life such as poor physical health, disrupted sleep, concentration difficulties, and leaving school earlier which results in fewer employment opportunities. Thus, the negative effects of stress, anxiety and depression on academic performance can leave individuals reliant on welfare payments if unemployed and with unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Here are some facts on how study stress and mental health can impact students and young people:
· Students may experience concentration difficulties in class which can lead to difficulties completing school tasks.
· Students and young people may experience difficulties in social situations with friends. They might also have difficulty learning on their own and might have poorer reading and writing abilities.
· Males with depression are less likely to undertake higher education and may drop out earlier from school (Pascoe et al. 2019).
· A 25-year New Zealand study into adolescent depression has identified poor employment outcomes in the longer term for young people with depression (Ferguson, et al. 2007).
· Having a bad night’s sleep because of stress and worry about exams and so on and being constantly tired in class can contribute to poor learning and well-being outcomes for students.
· Health issues, can arise when our physical activity decreases and we start to pick up some of those unhealthy lifestyle habits like sitting indoors on technology for hours to ‘chill out’.
What can you do to avoid study stress?
· Take breaks
· Develop a good sleep routine
· Eat well and stay healthy
· Get enough exercise
· Move your phone apps so they are not as readily accessible.
· Reach out and talk to your parents, carers or your friends about it.
· Reach out to your school, school counsellors or university and college campus support people. You would be amazed at what they can do.
· Contact your doctor for a mental health care plan and referral for psychological counselling
· Ring Kids Helpline
· Contact Lifeline.
There is ample evidence of a relationship between stress, anxiety and depression on academic performance, one key is providing education and support through GPs and clinicians in a supportive environment.
Author: Maree Stevens
Maree is a Mental Health Accredited Social Worker with over 20 years experience working with vulnerable groups of people in the human services space. She is passionate about education and empowering people of all abilities through a strengths-based approach. She embraces the concept that learning is lifelong.
To make an appointment please call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
Awadalla, S., Davies, E.B. & Glazebrook, C. (2020) A longitudinal cohort study to explore the relationship between depression, anxiety and academic performance among Emirati university students. BMC Psychiatry 20, 448. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02854-z
Fergusson, D. M., Boden, J. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2007). Recurrence of major depression in adolescence and early adulthood, and later mental health, educational and economic outcomes. The British Journal of Psychiatry: the Journal of Mental Science, 191, 335–342. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17906244 [Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]
Pascoe., Hetric, S. & Parker, E. (2019) The impact of stress on students in secondary school and higher education, International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25:1, 104-112, DOI: 10.1080/02673843.2019.1596823