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05/08/2023 | Press Release

How much does illness affect a study

People who are ill study less well - this correlation is obvious, but for the first time the effect on the study load has now been empirically established. According to a study by the University of Kassel, illness or other health restrictions are associated with a significantly lower workload. The researchers derive a recommendation for action from this.

Image: University of Kassel.

Health scientist Prof. Dr. Alfons Hollederer and his team surveyed 3,330 students at the University of Kassel online in March 2022. The results are of interest to all German universities because it is the only study of its kind to date. At that time, during the Corona pandemic, one-fifth assessed their own state of health as moderate, poor or very poor; around ten percent of participants said they were restricted in their everyday activities by illness or disability.

Crucially, however, of the students whose health severely limited their daily activities, more than one-third (36.5%) said that their completed study load was significantly less than specified. The worse the subjective health status, the smaller the workload on average. The bottom line is that students with moderate health limitations were about 1.56 times as likely to stay below the expected workload as students without limitations. For students with severe limitations, the factor was as high as 2.81, with mental and chronic illnesses correlating particularly strongly with a low workload.

"Our study is the first to examine the empirical relationship between health restrictions and study load," Hollederer explains. "There is every indication that it is transferable to other universities." While a cross-sectional survey such as this does not prove causal relationships - it does suggest that illnesses affect studying, it is also conceivable in principle that poor study success fosters illnesses psychosomatically. In any case, however, health management for students could improve health and contribute to the success of studying at German universities. So far, a systematic and comprehensive approach is lacking almost everywhere.

Hollederer is head of the Department of Health Care Theory and Empiricism at the University of Kassel. His study has now been published in the journal Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung.

Hollederer, A. Health and study load of students: Results of a Health Survey at   University of Kassel. Prevention and Health Promotion (2023).

On the theoretical background:

Römhild, A.; Hollederer, A. (2023). Effects of disability-related services, accommodations, and integration on academic success of students with disabilities in higher education. A scoping review. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 1-24.