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Personal Health Linked to Students’ Academic Success

February 17, 2014

Health interventions can contribute to academic achievement.

There is a strong relationship between a student’s personal health and their academic achievement in school, new research by Yale University suggests. The study found that school, home and community environments that promote good personal health contribute to higher levels of achievement.

The study examines the relationship between a variety of health factors and students’ standardized test scores. The most important predictors of academic achievement were having no television in the bedroom, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically fit, having a secure source of healthy food, and rarely eating at fast-food restaurants. Other significant factors were not drinking soda or other sweetened drinks and getting enough sleep.

Researchers used physical assessments, fitness testing, surveys and district test score records to gather data on the health and achievement of 940 students. The students surveyed were fifth- and sixth-grade students at 12 randomly selected public schools in New Haven, an ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged urban area. Data was collected three to six months prior to testing and then analyzed after the standardized test scores were released.

Students with a higher number of health assets were more likely to be at goal for standardized tests in reading, writing, and mathematics, and students with the most health assets were twice as likely to achieve goal compared with students with the fewest health assets.

“Many urban families sadly face the harsh challenges of persistent poverty,” said Jeannette Ickovics, lead author and professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale University, and director of the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement, a research program at the Yale School of Public Health. “Health and social disparities, including academic achievement, are increasing. One way to reduce disparities and close the equity gaps in health and education is to coordinate community and family-based efforts with comprehensive school-based approaches.”

The authors contend that creative approaches that integrate curricular and non-curricular schoolwide efforts to promote healthy behaviors among all students are worth the investment.

The study is published online in the January issue of the Journal of School Health.

Submitted by Denise Meyer on February 17, 2014