Several health-related factors have a significant effect on students’ overall academic performance, according to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota.
The study, released Oct. 21, surveyed 24,018 undergraduate students from 14 Minnesota colleges and shows a correlation between health factors and college students’ GPAs.
According to Ed Ehlinger, the director and chief health officer of the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service, the study provides strong enough evidence to show that universities need to have a good health service on campus or at least provide better assistance to students’ access to health services in the area.
“[Colleges] need to pay attention to the health of students because the health of students will help the college achieve its educational mission,” Ehlinger said.
The study shows that students who smoke or spend excessive time watching television or surfing the Internet for non-academic reasons have lower GPAs than students who don’t.
“We already knew if you are sick or are struggling with depression, it’s hard to do as well academically as you would like,” said Sarah Van Orman, executive director of University for Wisconsin Health Services. “What’s exciting about this report is this is the first time we have numbers to concretely link the two.”
The study also shows students without health insurance have lower GPAs. According to Ehlinger, not having health insurance causes stress, which is a mental and physical health inhibitor.
According to the study, the mean GPA for a student with health insurance is 3.25 versus 3.17 for students without, which, according to Ehlinger, is a significant difference due to the large sample size.
Van Orman said UW does not have a mandatory health insurance plan for its students.
“I think that by not having a requirement, we’re saying to students that [having insurance] doesn’t really matter,” Van Orman said. “When someone doesn’t have health insurance, a lot of times conditions go longer without being treated.”
She added that if a student has to return home for treatment because of their coverage, that can have a serious effect on academic performance.
“I think that this would be something that could be used to argue that the University of Wisconsin should have a mandatory insurance plan,” said Ehlinger.
Ehlinger admits the study cannot show correlation between the two, but not causation, and both Ehlinger and Van Orman would like to see a longitudinal study conducted to track students who change these parts of their lifestyle and to see if it does have an impact on their GPA over time.