How Does Well-Being Impact Academic Success?

Your well-being and academic success in college are closely related, and college students indicate that there are aspects of their physical health or emotional health that contribute to academic challenges.

Each year, the American College Health Association surveys tens of thousands of students attending college or university in the United States. Data [pdf] from the fall of 2018 indicated that the following are the top five physical or emotional well-being factors that affected individual academic performance in the past 12 months. This was defined as receiving a lower grade on an exam or project, receiving a lower grade in a course, receiving an incomplete or withdrawal from a course, or experienced a significant disruption in a thesis, research or practicum work.

Top 5 physical or emotional well-being factors that affected individual academic performance in the past 12 months:

  • Stress (32%)
  • Anxiety (26%)
  • Sleep (20%)
  • Depression (17%)
  • Cold/Flu/Sore Throat (13%)

As you can see, taking care of yourself by managing stress, getting adequate sleep, seeking care when you are not feeling well, and preventing illness are all things you can do in college to promote academic performance. Overlooking these or ignoring your health can contribute to lower grades.

Why Does This Happen?

Our physical and emotional well-being are related. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions all influence one another and are interconnected. So when an event happens, big or small, we react with things we tell ourselves—our thoughts. These thoughts create emotional experiences in response—our feelings. Our feelings drive how we respond. In turn, these actions reinforce or create new thoughts.

How thoughts, feelings, and actions influence each other

While recognizing thoughts and naming your feelings are skills you have been practicing since you were a young child, actually taking care of yourself and living away from family and existing support structures could be new for you and takes years of practice and refinement. It’s these self-care skills that are direct drivers of how we experience and react to stress and feelings of anxiety or depression and how we contribute to habits that promote good sleep or prevent illness. So take some time to explore how to stay well on campus and don’t ever hesitate to reach out to the services available on campus. They are here to help you along the way!