Data confirm connection between student health and academic achievement
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, were nine 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, were five 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 times more 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.
National and local health and safety data provided by CDC guide program activities, ensure the most effective use of resources and empower states to make the case for the programs and services students need.
“As our nation’s children embark on another school year, it’s important to remember that health and academic performance are not mutually exclusive,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. “When it comes to youth, health and education professionals should work in concert with communities and parents to help them create the best possible environment for the health, well-being and future success of the next generation.”