• Those high on the procrastination scale were more likely to report health issues
  • Mental health problems and 'disabling pain' were among other impacts
  • As a learned behavior, procrastination can also be unlearned, but requires dedicated effort

There's no doubt that procrastination can wreak havoc on the daily schedule, but can it actually have an impact on health, too? As it turns out, procrastination may be linked to a range of health outcomes, a new study has found.

For their study, published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, a team of researchers looked at a possible association between procrastination and certain adverse health outcomes.

Procrastination is essentially the act of voluntarily delaying or putting off intended actions even though one knows that there may be consequences as a result of the delay.

"Procrastination is prevalent among university students and is hypothesized to lead to adverse health outcomes," the researchers wrote. "Previous cross-sectional research suggests that procrastination is associated with mental and physical health outcomes, but longitudinal evidence is currently scarce."

To shed light on the matter, researchers looked at data from 3,525 university students from eight institutions in Sweden. The participants self-reported procrastination using the Swedish version of the Pure Procrastination Scale, while 16 self-reported health outcomes were assessed at the nine-month follow-up.

Indeed, the researchers found that those who scored high on the procrastination scale were more likely to report health problems nine months later, reported HealthDay.

"This cohort study of Swedish university students suggests that procrastination is associated with subsequent mental health problems, disabling pain, unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, and worse psychosocial health factors," the researcher wrote.

More specifically, the impacts included worse depression, anxiety and stress symptom levels, poor sleep quality and physical activity, "disabling pain" in the upper extremities, more economic difficulties and higher loneliness nine months later.

This doesn't exactly prove that procrastination itself caused these issues, noted HealthDay. However, it shows the potential impacts of "chronic" procrastination.

In the case of college students, their "freedom" and the lack of a solid structure in their schedules may be making them rather prone to procrastination, study lead researcher, Fred Johansson of Sophiahemmet University in Stockholm, said as per the outlet.

A 2007 meta-analysis, for instance, reportedly found that as high as 80-95% of college students procrastinated "on a regular basis," according to Verywell Mind.

As for the reasons behind the impacts on procrastinators' health, Johansson said it could be explained by stress or their tendency to fall behind on "wellness behaviors" such as exercise.

"Considering that procrastination is prevalent among university students, these findings may be of importance to enhance the understanding of students' health," the researchers wrote.

Fortunately, since it is a learned behavior, procrastination can also be unlearned, noted HealthDay. So there's hope for those who would like to make a change and stop procrastinating.

"It requires some effort, so it is not something you can do while trying to meet a specific deadline," Johansson said, according to the outlet. "But the evidence suggests that even procrastinators can change their behavior."

Some simple ways to stop procrastinating include making a to-do list, being more aware of the signs when you're procrastinating, removing distractions, and giving oneself a reward when you finish a task on time, suggested Verywell Mind.

Calendar, Deadline, time, procrastinating,
Representation. Bastian Wiedenhaupt/Pixabay