Are procrastinators less healthy?

by | Exercise and Fitness, Self Care

What are you supposed to be doing right now? If you’re procrastinating, you’re not alone, but a new research piece into the health habits of procrastinators may be the nudge you need to get yourself into gear. A group of researchers has found that significant levels of procrastination may be linked to negative health outcomes, too.

In this study, more than 3,000 university students were recruited to be followed for a year. At five different points in time, a series of health markers were assessed for each student (things like depression, anxiety, pain, sleep quality and drug and alcohol use). They also completed a ‘Pure Procrastination Scale’ questionnaire – a series of questions asking them to identify whether particular scenarios represented them (such as putting off tasks or handing in work late). That survey was used to give them a procrastination score out of 25, with high scores signifying significant procrastination. About two thirds of the participants were women and the average age was 25.

The researchers found that the average level of procrastination was a 13 out of 25, indicating moderate levels of procrastination in the study population. But for each standard deviation increase in that score, there were significant associations with higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as poor sleep quality, physical inactivity and loneliness. The authors suggested that procrastination may be a driver of these health outcomes, and not the other way around, given the multiple measurements made over time.

It might seem time for despair if you are a chronic procrastinator, but the authors also had advice for such people – suggesting that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the gold-standard treatment for procrastination. It typically involves becoming more aware of, and changing, thoughts and behaviours that are ingrained. Other advice often centres around tweaking one’s environment to remove distractions and allow focus to develop – which usually means mobile phones and other screens should be put away.


Johansson, F., Rozental, A., Edlund, K., Côté, P., Sundberg, T., Onell, C., Rudman, A., & Skillgate, E. (2023). Associations Between Procrastination and Subsequent Health Outcomes Among University Students in Sweden. JAMA network open6(1), e2249346. Available from