Scientists Find A Link Between Procrastination And Health Threats

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Scientists have discovered that procrastination could be threatening your overall health.  If you put things off frequently and for the wrong reasons, you could be at risk for debilitating health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

According to Entrepreneur, some of the negative consequences of procrastination are known by firsthand experience; we wait too long to start a project, or delay that important phone call, then end up feeling more pressure than we would have had we started things sooner.  But that stress on the body while in rushed mode can actually cause health issues.

According to research by Joseph Ferrari, all of us procrastinate from time to time. However, about 20 percent of us are what’s known as “chronic procrastinators,” frequently and intentionally delaying work on projects with no gain other than to temporarily delay the inevitable.

In our youth, most of us are taught to avoid procrastination because the practice leaves us with less time and more pressure, and those issues certainly aren’t good. But, later in life, the consequences of procrastination might go even further than we realize. Research by Fuschia Sirois, from Bishop’s University in Quebec, suggests that trait procrastination (the tendency to regularly delay important tasks) is correlated with both hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The correlation exists even when researchers control for variables like age, race, education level, and personality factors.

This means it isn’t the procrastination that actually adversely affects your overall health and well-being, it’s your body’s response to the added stress of rushing to finish a job in a short amount of time. Sirois’s study also noted the tendency for participants to demonstrate behavioral disengagement; in other words, they procrastinate as a way to distance themselves from a given problem. It’s a coping strategy, and not a healthy one, so chronic procrastinators aren’t able to manage their stress effectively.

Procrastinators also tend to feel bad after procrastinating, understanding that this is a bad habit and knowing they’ve put themselves in a difficult situation. But that self-blame can make them even more stressed.  Stress is known to be hard on the body. 

Even though procrastination’s additional stress-related health consequences are impossible to ignore, it’s not fair to cast all instances in a negative light. For example, one study from the Journal of Social Psychology noted two distinct types of procrastinators: active and passive. How much your body reacts to the stress will depend on which type of procrastination you most often display.

Passive procrastinators delay tasks until absolutely necessary because they find themselves unable to summon the discipline to do them sooner. Active procrastinators intentionally decide to delay their work as a time-management strategy. While active procrastinators spend the same amount of time putting things off, they display a more productive use of time and more adaptive coping skills, since they are only doing it to manage their available time.  Passive procrastinators often simply don’t want to do the task at hand making the stress compound once they actually begin. Therefore, passive procrastinators often suffer the negative health effects to a greater capacity, says the research. 

Understanding the consequences of procrastination, and fighting back against the habits that make you more susceptible to it will keep you productive and in better overall health.  If you find yourself a habitual procrastinator and a passive one at that, take steps to help yourself overcome this habit.  It could help lower your stress and leave you feeling healthier and more vibrant.

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