Healthy Behaviors Lead to Better School Performance

Washington, D.C.–As millions of students across the United States head back to school, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new data confirming the close connection between student health and academic performance.

Connection between health and school performance is close (image credit: CDC)

The data published in the September 8 issue of The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report suggest that regardless of sex, race/ethnicity and grade-level, high school students reporting lower academic marks also reported greater health risk behaviors associated with substance use, violence, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and sex. They also reported fewer healthy behaviors than did students who made better grades.

“These findings highlight the connection between student health and academic achievement,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “Schools, parents and communities can all work together to ensure a healthy and successful future for our children.”

The analysis uses information from CDC’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.  While the results do not address causality, they confirm that across nearly 30 health behaviors, students with lower grades reported higher levels of health risk behaviors or negative outcomes. On the other hand, students who reported positive academic outcomes were more likely to report healthy behaviors. Examples include:

  • Students who reported receiving mostly Ds and Fs, werenine times more likely than students who received mostly As to report having ever injected any illegal drugs.
  • Students who reported receiving mostly Ds and Fs, werefive times more likely than students who received mostly As to report that they did not go to school at least one day in the past month because of safety concerns. .
  • Students who reported receiving mostly Ds and Fs were more than four timesmore likely than students who received mostly As to report that they had four or more sexual partners..
  • Conversely, students who reported receiving mostly As were twice as likely as students who received mostly Ds and Fs to report eating breakfast every day in the past week.
  • Similarly, students who reported receiving mostly As were almost one and a half times more likely than students who received mostly Ds and Fs to report being physically active at least 60 minutes per day on five or more days in the past week.

To support America’s schools in improving the health of their students, CDC provides data, expertise and resources that can be helpful in developing and carrying out effective programs. This includes funding state and local education agencies that reach approximately 23 million American students to help them avoid risky health behaviors. In addition, CDC promotes the use of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model, which focuses on a child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.

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