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More than two hours of homework may be counterproductive, research suggests.

Education scholar Denise Pope has found that too much homework has negative impacts on student well-being and behavioral engagement (Shutterstock)

A Stanford education researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect kids, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends and activities matter.   "Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good," wrote Denise Pope , a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education .   The researchers used survey data to examine perceptions about homework, student well-being and behavioral engagement in a sample of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities. Along with the survey data, Pope and her colleagues used open-ended answers to explore the students' views on homework.   Median household income exceeded $90,000 in these communities, and 93 percent of the students went on to college, either two-year or four-year.   Students in these schools average about 3.1 hours of homework each night.   "The findings address how current homework practices in privileged, high-performing schools sustain students' advantage in competitive climates yet hinder learning, full engagement and well-being," Pope wrote.   Pope and her colleagues found that too much homework can diminish its effectiveness and even be counterproductive. They cite prior research indicating that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night, and that 90 minutes to two and a half hours is optimal for high school.   Their study found that too much homework is associated with:   • Greater stress : 56 percent of the students considered homework a primary source of stress, according to the survey data. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent put the pressure to get good grades in that category. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.   • Reductions in health : In their open-ended answers, many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems. The researchers asked students whether they experienced health issues such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems.   • Less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits : Both the survey data and student responses indicate that spending too much time on homework meant that students were "not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills," according to the researchers. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy.   A balancing act   The results offer empirical evidence that many students struggle to find balance between homework, extracurricular activities and social time, the researchers said. Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.   Also, there was no relationship between the time spent on homework and how much the student enjoyed it. The research quoted students as saying they often do homework they see as "pointless" or "mindless" in order to keep their grades up.   "This kind of busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points," said Pope, who is also a co-founder of Challenge Success , a nonprofit organization affiliated with the GSE that conducts research and works with schools and parents to improve students' educational experiences..   Pope said the research calls into question the value of assigning large amounts of homework in high-performing schools. Homework should not be simply assigned as a routine practice, she said.   "Rather, any homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development," wrote Pope.   High-performing paradox   In places where students attend high-performing schools, too much homework can reduce their time to foster skills in the area of personal responsibility, the researchers concluded. "Young people are spending more time alone," they wrote, "which means less time for family and fewer opportunities to engage in their communities."   Student perspectives   The researchers say that while their open-ended or "self-reporting" methodology to gauge student concerns about homework may have limitations – some might regard it as an opportunity for "typical adolescent complaining" – it was important to learn firsthand what the students believe.   The paper was co-authored by Mollie Galloway from Lewis and Clark College and Jerusha Conner from Villanova University.

Clifton B. Parker is a writer at the Stanford News Service .

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August 16, 2021

Is it time to get rid of homework? Mental health experts weigh in

by Sara M Moniuszko


It's no secret that kids hate homework. And as students grapple with an ongoing pandemic that has had a wide-range of mental health impacts, is it time schools start listening to their pleas over workloads?

Some teachers are turning to social media to take a stand against homework .

Tiktok user @misguided.teacher says he doesn't assign it because the "whole premise of homework is flawed."

For starters, he says he can't grade work on "even playing fields" when students' home environments can be vastly different.

"Even students who go home to a peaceful house, do they really want to spend their time on busy work? Because typically that's what a lot of homework is, it's busy work," he says in the video that has garnered 1.6 million likes. "You only get one year to be 7, you only got one year to be 10, you only get one year to be 16, 18."

Mental health experts agree heavy work loads have the potential do more harm than good for students, especially when taking into account the impacts of the pandemic. But they also say the answer may not be to eliminate homework altogether.

Emmy Kang, mental health counselor at Humantold, says studies have shown heavy workloads can be "detrimental" for students and cause a "big impact on their mental, physical and emotional health."

"More than half of students say that homework is their primary source of stress, and we know what stress can do on our bodies," she says, adding that staying up late to finish assignments also leads to disrupted sleep and exhaustion.

Cynthia Catchings, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist at Talkspace, says heavy workloads can also cause serious mental health problems in the long run, like anxiety and depression.

And for all the distress homework causes, it's not as useful as many may think, says Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a psychologist and CEO of Omega Recovery treatment center.

"The research shows that there's really limited benefit of homework for elementary age students, that really the school work should be contained in the classroom," he says.

For older students, Kang says homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night.

"Most students, especially at these high-achieving schools, they're doing a minimum of three hours, and it's taking away time from their friends from their families, their extracurricular activities. And these are all very important things for a person's mental and emotional health."

Catchings, who also taught third to 12th graders for 12 years, says she's seen the positive effects of a no homework policy while working with students abroad.

"Not having homework was something that I always admired from the French students (and) the French schools, because that was helping the students to really have the time off and really disconnect from school ," she says.

The answer may not be to eliminate homework completely, but to be more mindful of the type of work students go home with, suggests Kang, who was a high-school teacher for 10 years.

"I don't think (we) should scrap homework, I think we should scrap meaningless, purposeless busy work-type homework. That's something that needs to be scrapped entirely," she says, encouraging teachers to be thoughtful and consider the amount of time it would take for students to complete assignments.

The pandemic made the conversation around homework more crucial

Mindfulness surrounding homework is especially important in the context of the last two years. Many students will be struggling with mental health issues that were brought on or worsened by the pandemic, making heavy workloads even harder to balance.

"COVID was just a disaster in terms of the lack of structure. Everything just deteriorated," Kardaras says, pointing to an increase in cognitive issues and decrease in attention spans among students. "School acts as an anchor for a lot of children, as a stabilizing force, and that disappeared."

But even if students transition back to the structure of in-person classes, Kardaras suspects students may still struggle after two school years of shifted schedules and disrupted sleeping habits.

"We've seen adults struggling to go back to in-person work environments from remote work environments. That effect is amplified with children because children have less resources to be able to cope with those transitions than adults do," he explains.

'Get organized' ahead of back-to-school

In order to make the transition back to in-person school easier, Kang encourages students to "get good sleep, exercise regularly (and) eat a healthy diet."

To help manage workloads, she suggests students "get organized."

"There's so much mental clutter up there when you're disorganized... sitting down and planning out their study schedules can really help manage their time," she says.

Breaking assignments up can also make things easier to tackle.

"I know that heavy workloads can be stressful, but if you sit down and you break down that studying into smaller chunks, they're much more manageable."

If workloads are still too much, Kang encourages students to advocate for themselves.

"They should tell their teachers when a homework assignment just took too much time or if it was too difficult for them to do on their own," she says. "It's good to speak up and ask those questions. Respectfully, of course, because these are your teachers. But still, I think sometimes teachers themselves need this feedback from their students."

©2021 USA Today Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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NYU Study Examines Top High School Students’ Stress and Coping Mechanisms

The study shows that there is growing awareness many subgroups of youth experience high levels of chronic stress, to the extent it impedes their abilities to succeed academically, compromises their mental health functioning, and fosters risk behavior. Furthermore, this chronic stress appears to persist into the college years, and researchers warns it may contribute to academic disengagement and mental health problems among emerging adults.

  • Over time selective high schools have oriented themselves to address a context of increasingly competitive college admissions
  • School work, college applications, extracurricular activities, and parental expectations all contribute to teenagers’ stress
  • Youth, schools, and experts identified substance use as a common strategy for coping with stress

“School, homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, repeat—that’s what it can be for some of these students,” says Noelle Leonard, PhD, a senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing (NYUCN).

According to Leonard academic, athletic, social, and personal challenges have been regarded as domains of “good stress” for high school aged youth. However, there is growing awareness that many subgroups of youth experience high levels of chronic stress, to the extent that it impedes their abilities to succeed academically, compromises their mental health functioning, and fosters risk behavior. Furthermore, this chronic stress appears to persist into the college years, and Leonard warns it may contribute to academic disengagement and mental health problems among emerging adults.

“We are concerned that students in these selective, high pressure high schools can get burned out even before they reach college,” noted Leonard. “The Charles Engelhard Foundation is interested in the issue of college engagement, and funded us to explore whether the roots of disengagement reach back as far as high school. We found that indeed they do.”

In a four-phase quantitative and qualitative study published in Frontiers in Psychol ogy in July 2015, a team of NYUCN researchers led by Leonard assessed the coping skills, academic engagement, family involvement and expectations, mental health symptoms, and substance use among juniors enrolled in two highly selective private secondary schools in the Northeast: one an urban day school; the other a boarding school.

“While there is no doubt students in selective public high schools also experience high rates of chronic stress, we decided to study the private school setting, which has been under-studied compared to public institutions,” said Marya Gwadz, PhD, the study’s Principal Investigator.

Among the differences, families pay substantial tuition rates for a private education and most students are affluent, and “such factors result in a unique set of pressures, expectations, norms, and resources,” noted Leonard. The study focuses on students in the eleventh grade. Chronic stress tends to be particularly high for this cohort, as it is generally the point at which students consolidate their portfolios in preparation for college applications.

“We sought to describe the experiences of the students, but also uncover the larger cultural and societal factors that drive the problem of chronic stress, since schools, families, and youth don’t operate in a vacuum,” said Amanda Ritchie, MAA, a study collaborator. “We know schools and families are embedded in society and are responding to its changing requirements and demands, with respect to the competitiveness of the college admissions process, the kinds of skills needed to succeed in the workforce, and even uncertainties in the global economy.”

In the first phase of the study, researchers conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with nineteen private school teachers, counselors, and administrators to elicit their perspectives on student stress and coping. These responses were in turn used to inform the second phase of the study, a quantitative anonymous internet-based survey, administered to a total of 128 juniors between the two private schools.

About half (48%) of those surveyed reported completing at least three hours of homework a night, with girls 40 percent more likely to report three or more hours of homework a night than boys. Participants demonstrated a relatively strong academic performance, with girls reporting an average GPA of 3.57, higher than boys’ average of 3.34. Students showed high levels of motivation for academic achievement, with an average valuation of 2.35 on a scale of 0 (least) to 3 (most). On average, girls were found to be more motivated in this regard than boys (2.48 vs. 2.22). Students reported high rates of feelings of “closeness” to their parents, with an average valuation of 3.15 on a 0-4 scale.

Nearly half (49%) of all students reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis and 31 percent reported feeling somewhat stressed. Females reported significantly higher levels of stress than males (60% vs. 41%). Grades, homework, and preparing for college were the greatest sources of stress for both genders. A substantial minority, 26 percent of participants, reported symptoms of depression at a clinically significant level.

In the third phase of the study, the NYUCN researchers conducted qualitative (semi-structured, open-ended) interviews with eighteen of the students surveyed to provide an interpretation of the results from the students’ perspective.

For the fourth and final phase of the research, a panel of eight private school experts was convened— that included clinical social workers, psychologists, a private school guidance counselor, a teacher with both private and public school experience, a parent of two recent private school graduates, and a student who recently graduated from a private school. The Expert Panel members were presented with the results from the study’s three previous phases in individual meetings and the responses from these interviews were used to further interpret and expand upon the data from prior phases.

“I think that parental pressure (on schools and students) is real,” said a teacher with over twenty years of experience in the private school sector interviewed in the study’s fourth stage. “Parents are coming in and thinking, I’m (spending a lot of money) and I need to get something, a very tangible something. A great education is not a tangible something; a diploma from Harvard, Princeton or Yale …that’s tangible.”

Yet it has never been more difficult to enter one of these top-tier institutions, which may accept only 5 or 6 percent of their applicants, although in general a strong student will be able to gain access to any number of good colleges or universities. These highly selective schools and parents are responding to this competitive climate. Private schools have reacted by providing more difficult classes (which may require longer hours of challenging homework), college-level classes, and requiring extracurricular activities, as well as other opportunities for students to stand out, such as entrepreneurial or community service opportunities. Parents, in turn, may demand their children take Advanced Placement courses, even in cases where they are told their child is not a good fit for the course and may not be able to handle the work. Thus schools, parents, and students may feel caught in a cycle of escalating demands and expectations, largely out of their control and driven by greater societal factors.

Importantly, in a theme echoed by schools and experts, students noted that these demands did not always feel appropriate to their developmental levels. Instead, they felt they were asked to work as hard as adults, or even harder, with little time left for relaxation or creativity.

When exploring how students managed the various sources of stress described in the study, researchers found they used a variety of coping strategies ranging from healthy, problem-focused coping, to less adaptive, emotion focused, internal and external avoidance coping strategies.  Active or problem-solving strategies for coping with stress included listening to or playing music, playing video/computer games, meditating, or getting away from school.

“Three main themes emerged as the most dominant adaptive coping strategies, notably, sports and exercise, preventive activities such as good planning skills, and maintaining a balanced perspective on school and grades,” said Leonard.

“On the opposite end of the spectrum, our interviews yielded few descriptions of less adaptive strategies, in contrast to the many adaptive strategies articulated by students, with two exceptions, emotional exhaustion and substance use,” said Michelle Grethel, Ph.D., an expert and independent consultant. Students described emotional exhaustion as a feeling of lethargy or immobilization in response to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. “I just don't do anything”, “I won't do any of it” or “ I lose the ability to function” were some of the ways students described this sense of paralysis. One student recounts: “You get tired. You don't really want to be around people. You just get in this kind of… funk where, like, you just kind of want to be alone in your room and just sleep. Or just like not dealing with anything…”

“Substance use for stress relief was a predominant theme in our interviews with students, over two-thirds of whom described substance use as both endemic to their social experience and as a method for managing stress,” says Dr. Charles Cleland, a study investigator. Alcohol and marijuana were described as the primary substances students used for relaxation. As a male student noted: “most of the things that people do, here, when they're stressed is they go get drunk or they get high.” However, for the most part students reported that substance use, while very common, did not usually rise to the level of problem or hazardous use.

Substance use for this purpose was not gender specific. One female student recounts, “Marijuana probably was a big anti-stress thing for me last year…just being relaxed for like an hour or two.” In fact, the quantitative data indicates no gender differences for general substance use. Over the thirty-day period preceding the survey, 38 percent of students reported getting drunk and 34 percent of students reported getting high on an illegal substance, rates one to two times greater than reported in national normative samples.

“While students didn’t discuss prescription drug use, members of the expert panel indicated its widespread use among students for whom it was prescribed as well as those for whom it was not prescribed,” said Gwadz. One member of the panel, who counsels students noted “Using Ritalin (a stimulant commonly prescribed for ADHD) is seen only as a benefit and [the students are] incredulous that any faculty or counselor would challenge that taking Ritalin to get an edge in your academic performance, that there could be anything wrong with that … that’s what you have to do in this world.”

Stress commonly leads to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Results of the study also indicated that parents, more so than their students, experienced a stigma associated with receiving mental health services. Members of the expert panel noted that parents will go to great lengths to avoid taking their children to an outside physician or counselor, as they believe their child will be labeled and such treatment will inhibit their child from getting into the college of their choice.

The researchers note that private schools take a multi-faceted approach to reducing the level of perceived stress and improving adaptive coping among students. High-performing schools mindful of the need to manage chronic stress among students have implemented strategies such as changing school schedules, staggering exams and assignments among different classes, and providing stress reduction opportunities such as yoga and meditation.

“Schools have an opportunity to engage and train families on ways to increase their capacities to serve as resources for their children; to educate families on the deleterious effects of chronic stress and the role of substances in coping with stress; and engage families and students in a dialogue about expectations for achievement and a wider definition of success, all of which may allow students to fully participate in the richness of the private school environment,” said Leonard

Both Leonard and Gwadz note a number of promising avenues for future study. Given the exploratory nature of this study, they were unable to interview parents, who play a vital role in how students view and manage stress. While many students, teachers, and expert panel members in the current study discussed the role of parents in some detail, future research should explore parents’ hopes and expectations for their children as well as how parents communicate these expectations. The researchers also hope to expand the study to include a more nationally representative sampling of private schools.

Researcher Affiliations: Noelle R. Leonard1, 2, Marya Viorst Gwadz1, Amanda Ritchie1, Jessica L. Linick1, 2, Charles M. Cleland1, Luther Elliott3, Michelle Grethel4.

1. Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), College of Nursing, New York University, New York, NY, USA

2. Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

3. National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, NY, USA

4. Independent Consultant, New York, NY, USA

Acknowledgements: This work was supported by a grant from the Charles Engelhard Foundation and the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR; P30 DA011041). The study’s authors wish to thank the participating schools, teachers, administrators, staff, students, and Experts.

About New York University College of Nursing

NYU College of Nursing is a global leader in nursing education, research, and practice. It offers a Bachelor of Science with major in Nursing, a Master of Science and Post-Master’s Certificate Programs, a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and a Doctor of Philosophy in Research Theory and Development. For more information, visit  https://nursing.nyu.edu/


The mission of the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) is to end the HIV and HCV epidemics in drug using populations and their communities by conducting transdisciplinary research and disseminating its findings to inform programmatic, policy, and grass roots initiatives at the local, state, national and global levels. CDUHR is a Core Center of Excellence funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant #P30 DA011041).  It is the first center for the socio-behavioral study of substance use and HIV in the United States and is located at the New York University College of Nursing. For more information, visit www.cduhr.org .

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I’m So Stressed Out! Fact Sheet

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Feeling overwhelmed? Read this fact sheet to learn whether it’s stress or anxiety, and what you can do to cope.

Is it stress or anxiety?

Life can be stressful—you may feel stressed about performance at school, traumatic events (such as a pandemic, a natural disaster, or an act of violence), or a life change. Everyone feels stress from time to time.

What is stress? Stress is the physical or mental response to an external cause, such as having a lot of homework or having an illness. A stressor may be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long time.

What is anxiety? Anxiety is your body's reaction to stress and can occur even if there is no current threat.

If that anxiety doesn’t go away and begins to interfere with your life, it could affect your health. You could experience problems with sleeping, or with your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. You also may be at higher risk for developing a mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression. Read more about anxiety disorders .

So, how do you know when to seek help?

Stress vs. Anxiety

It’s important to manage your stress..

Everyone experiences stress, and sometimes that stress can feel overwhelming. You may be at risk for an anxiety disorder if it feels like you can’t manage the stress and if the symptoms of your stress:

  • Interfere with your everyday life.
  • Cause you to avoid doing things.
  • Seem to be always present.

Coping With Stress and Anxiety

Learning what causes or triggers your stress and what coping techniques work for you can help reduce your anxiety and improve your daily life. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you. Here are some activities you can try when you start to feel overwhelmed:

  • Keep a journal.
  • Download an app that provides relaxation exercises (such as deep breathing or visualization) or tips for practicing mindfulness, which is a psychological process of actively paying attention to the present moment.
  • Exercise, and make sure you are eating healthy, regular meals.
  • Stick to a sleep routine, and make sure you are getting enough sleep.
  • Avoid drinking excess caffeine such as soft drinks or coffee.
  • Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • Reach out to your friends or family members who help you cope in a positive way.

Recognize When You Need More Help

If you are struggling to cope, or the symptoms of your stress or anxiety won’t go away, it may be time to talk to a professional. Psychotherapy (also called talk therapy) and medication are the two main treatments for anxiety, and many people benefit from a combination of the two.

If you are in immediate distress or are thinking about hurting yourself, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline   at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org   .

If you or someone you know has a mental illness, is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, there are ways to get help. Read more about getting help .

More Resources

  • NIMH: Anxiety Disorders
  • NIMH: Caring for Your Mental Health
  • NIMH: Child and Adolescent Mental Health
  • NIMH: Tips for Talking With a Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Anxiety and Depression in Children 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES National Institutes of Health NIH Publication No. 20-MH-8125

The information in this publication is in the public domain and may be reused or copied without permission. However, you may not reuse or copy images. Please cite the National Institute of Mental Health as the source. Read our copyright policy to learn more about our guidelines for reusing NIMH content.

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., homework wars: high school workloads, student stress, and how parents can help.

Winning the Homework Wars

Studies of typical homework loads vary : In one, a Stanford researcher found that more than two hours of homework a night may be counterproductive. The research , conducted among students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities, found that too much homework resulted in stress, physical health problems and a general lack of balance.

Additionally, the  2014 Brown Center Report on American Education , found that with the exception of nine-year-olds, the amount of homework schools assign has remained relatively unchanged since 1984, meaning even those in charge of the curricula don't see a need for adding more to that workload.

But student experiences don’t always match these results. On our own Student Life in America survey, over 50% of students reported feeling stressed, 25% reported that homework was their biggest source of stress, and on average teens are spending one-third of their study time feeling stressed, anxious, or stuck.

The disparity can be explained in one of the conclusions regarding the Brown Report:

Of the three age groups, 17-year-olds have the most bifurcated distribution of the homework burden. They have the largest percentage of kids with no homework (especially when the homework shirkers are added in) and the largest percentage with more than two hours.

So what does that mean for parents who still endure the homework wars at home?

Read More: Teaching Your Kids How To Deal with School Stress

It means that sometimes kids who are on a rigorous college-prep track, probably are receiving more homework, but the statistics are melding it with the kids who are receiving no homework. And on our survey, 64% of students reported that their parents couldn’t help them with their work. This is where the real homework wars lie—not just the amount, but the ability to successfully complete assignments and feel success.

Parents want to figure out how to help their children manage their homework stress and learn the material.

Our Top 4 Tips for Ending Homework Wars

1. have a routine..

Every parenting advice article you will ever read emphasizes the importance of a routine. There’s a reason for that: it works. A routine helps put order into an often disorderly world. It removes the thinking and arguing and “when should I start?” because that decision has already been made. While routines must be flexible to accommodate soccer practice on Tuesday and volunteer work on Thursday, knowing in general when and where you, or your child, will do homework literally removes half the battle.

2. Have a battle plan.

Overwhelmed students look at a mountain of homework and think “insurmountable.” But parents can look at it with an outsider’s perspective and help them plan. Put in an extra hour Monday when you don’t have soccer. Prepare for the AP Chem test on Friday a little at a time each evening so Thursday doesn’t loom as a scary study night (consistency and repetition will also help lock the information in your brain). Start reading the book for your English report so that it’s underway. Go ahead and write a few sentences, so you don’t have a blank page staring at you. Knowing what the week will look like helps you keep calm and carry on.

3. Don’t be afraid to call in reserves.

You can’t outsource the “battle” but you can outsource the help ! We find that kids just do better having someone other than their parents help them —and sometimes even parents with the best of intentions aren’t equipped to wrestle with complicated physics problem. At The Princeton Review, we specialize in making homework time less stressful. Our tutors are available 24/7 to work one-to-one in an online classroom with a chat feature, interactive whiteboard, and the file sharing tool, where students can share their most challenging assignments.

4. Celebrate victories—and know when to surrender.

Students and parents can review completed assignments together at the end of the night -- acknowledging even small wins helps build a sense of accomplishment. If you’ve been through a particularly tough battle, you’ll also want to reach reach a cease-fire before hitting your bunk. A war ends when one person disengages. At some point, after parents have provided a listening ear, planning, and support, they have to let natural consequences take their course. And taking a step back--and removing any pressure a parent may be inadvertently creating--can be just what’s needed.

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School Stress Takes A Toll On Health, Teens And Parents Say

Patti Neighmond

homework causes stress and anxiety statistics

Colleen Frainey, 16, of Tualatin, Ore., cut back on advanced placement classes in her junior year because the stress was making her physically ill. Toni Greaves for NPR hide caption

Colleen Frainey, 16, of Tualatin, Ore., cut back on advanced placement classes in her junior year because the stress was making her physically ill.

When high school junior Nora Huynh got her report card, she was devastated to see that she didn't get a perfect 4.0.

Nora "had a total meltdown, cried for hours," her mother, Jennie Huynh of Alameda, Calif., says. "I couldn't believe her reaction."

Nora is doing college-level work, her mother says, but many of her friends are taking enough advanced classes to boost their grade-point averages above 4.0. "It breaks my heart to see her upset when she's doing so awesome and going above and beyond."

And the pressure is taking a physical toll, too. At age 16, Nora is tired, is increasingly irritated with her siblings and often suffers headaches, her mother says.

Teens Talk Stress

When NPR asked on Facebook if stress is an issue for teenagers, they spoke loud and clear:

  • "Academic stress has been a part of my life ever since I can remember," wrote Bretta McCall, 16, of Seattle. "This year I spend about 12 hours a day on schoolwork. I'm home right now because I was feeling so sick from stress I couldn't be at school. So as you can tell, it's a big part of my life!"
  • "At the time of writing this, my weekend assignments include two papers, a PowerPoint to go with a 10-minute presentation, studying for a test and two quizzes, and an entire chapter (approximately 40 pages) of notes in a college textbook," wrote Connor West of New Jersey.
  • "It's a problem that's basically brushed off by most people," wrote Kelly Farrell in Delaware. "There's this mentality of, 'You're doing well, so why are you complaining?' " She says she started experiencing symptoms of stress in middle school, and was diagnosed with panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder in high school.
  • "Parents are the worst about all of this," writes Colin Hughes of Illinois. "All I hear is, 'Work harder, you're a smart kid, I know you have it in you, and if you want to go to college you need to work harder.' It's a pain."

Parents are right to be worried about stress and their children's health, says Mary Alvord , a clinical psychologist in Maryland and public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association.

"A little stress is a good thing," Alvord says. "It can motivate students to be organized. But too much stress can backfire."

Almost 40 percent of parents say their high-schooler is experiencing a lot of stress from school, according to a new NPR poll conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. In most cases, that stress is from academics, not social issues or bullying, the poll found. (See the full results here .)

Homework was a leading cause of stress, with 24 percent of parents saying it's an issue.

Teenagers say they're suffering, too. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of all teens — 45 percent — said they were stressed by school pressures.

Chronic stress can cause a sense of panic and paralysis, Alvord says. The child feels stuck, which only adds to the feeling of stress.

Parents can help put the child's distress in perspective, particularly when they get into what Alvord calls catastrophic "what if" thinking: "What if I get a bad grade, then what if that means I fail the course, then I'll never get into college."

Then move beyond talking and do something about it.

homework causes stress and anxiety statistics

Colleen pets her horse, Bishop. They had been missing out on rides together because of homework. Toni Greaves for NPR hide caption

Colleen pets her horse, Bishop. They had been missing out on rides together because of homework.

That's what 16-year-old Colleen Frainey of Tualatin, Ore., did. As a sophomore last year, she was taking all advanced courses. The pressure was making her sick. "I didn't feel good, and when I didn't feel good I felt like I couldn't do my work, which would stress me out more," she says.

Mom Abigail Frainey says, "It was more than we could handle as a family."

With encouragement from her parents, Colleen dropped one of her advanced courses. The family's decision generated disbelief from other parents. "Why would I let her take the easy way out?" Abigail Frainey heard.

But she says dialing down on academics was absolutely the right decision for her child. Colleen no longer suffers headaches or stomachaches. She's still in honors courses, but the workload this year is manageable.

Even better, Colleen now has time to do things she never would have considered last year, like going out to dinner with the family on a weeknight, or going to the barn to ride her horse, Bishop.

Psychologist Alvord says a balanced life should be the goal for all families. If a child is having trouble getting things done, parents can help plan the week, deciding what's important and what's optional. "Just basic time management — that will help reduce the stress."

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Anxiety in College Students: Causes, Statistics & How Universities Can Help

Woman college student walking on campus with an anxious expression

Anxiety and depression are the two most common reasons that students seek mental health services, according to the  Center for Collegiate Mental Health 2017 Annual Report  from Penn State University. While the incidence of all other mental illnesses reported by college students has declined or remained flat, these two mental health conditions have shown year-over-year increases.

Many types of anxiety disorders can afflict college students. According to the  Mayo Clinic , symptoms of anxiety include nervousness, unease, a sense of impending danger or doom, sweating and trembling, inability to maintain focus, uncontrollable worry, and insomnia. Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by feelings of restlessness, fatigue, and difficulty maintaining focus, according to the  U.S. National Institute of Mental Health  (NIMH). Anxiety is present in such specialized disorders as phobia-related illnesses caused by an inordinate fear of certain items or situations, such as germs or confined spaces.

Anxiety is similar to other mental health illnesses in being difficult for diagnosticians to identify and sufferers to acknowledge. People experiencing chronic anxiety often avoid places and activities that may trigger these feelings, which negatively affects their quality of life. They often downplay the impact of anxiety on their day-to-day lives, or they simply may not realize they are dealing with a potentially serious mental health condition.

However, here are some tips to help effectively treat anxiety which can enable a person afflicted with the disorder to live a normal, healthy life. This guide explores the causes and symptoms of anxiety in college students, as well as current and long-term health impacts from the condition and the ways universities are helping students who suffer from anxiety.

Facts and Statistics About Anxiety in College Students

The  U.S. Census Bureau  reports that in 2017, more than 18 million students were enrolled in college in the U.S. According to figures compiled by  Statista , nearly three out of four of these students have experienced a sense of “overwhelming anxiety” at some time, and just under 30% report having felt overwhelming anxiety in the previous two weeks. Here are other statistics that examine the impact of anxiety on college students.

Prevalence of Anxiety in College Students

That so many college students are affected by anxiety is not surprising. Students often have to manage heavy loads of coursework, in addition to participating in extracurricular activities and holding part-time or full-time jobs. Students must also cope with the stress of choosing a new career based on their education goals. Despite anxiety being so prevalent among college students, university officials may not be aware of the damage anxiety can cause to students, nor know how to properly address the disorder.

Anxiety is prevalent among college students in part because they are in the midst of a major life transition. Lois M. Collins writes in the  Deseret News  that “college students may have a unique vulnerability because mental illness often appears amid the transition from childhood to adulthood.” The everyday stresses and demands of the academic environment also contribute to students’ feelings of anxiety.

Additional Mental Health Afflictions College Students May Experience

In addition to anxiety, college students may suffer from other mental health conditions. It is understandable for college students to feel sad or anxious on occasion, but the feelings usually pass in a matter of days. Depression and anxiety may cause these negative emotions to persist and affect all aspects of the student’s life, however. The  Mayo Clinic  describes “college depression” not as a separate clinical diagnosis but rather as the onset of depression that starts during college. Symptoms of “college depression” include persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, angry outbursts, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, and a sense of worthlessness.

Students with mental health disorders may face unique challenges during their time on campus. According to the  National Alliance on Mental Illness , adults who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to drop out of college than those who do not have a psychiatric diagnosis. Other mental health conditions that college students may suffer from include eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse disorders.

Anxiety’s Effects After Students Leave College

Beyond the short-term effects of anxiety, the condition can have a long-term impact on college students, sometimes extending long after they’ve graduated. The  Mayo Clinic  notes that generalized anxiety disorder can precede other mental health problems, or it may worsen a preexisting health condition, such as headaches and migraines, heart disease, and chronic pain.

Additionally, anxiety can play a role in a person’s recovery from another illness. Writing for  Johns Hopkins Medicine , Una McCann, MD, describes how anxiety can impair a person’s recovery from a heart attack by interfering with the patient’s prescribed medications or preventing sleep during recovery, among other complications. “Anxiety disorders come with a high degree of fear and uncertainty,” Dr. McCann writes. “When this fear and uncertainty keep the heart attack or heart disease patient from following the advice and treatment plan of their cardiologist, it can have a major impact on recovery.”

Treatment and Support for Anxiety in College Students

Although anxiety is a serious mental health condition, effective treatments are available to prevent the condition from impairing the education of a college student. The resources described here help students overcome anxiety and lead a happier, healthier life.

University Mental Health Resources

In conjunction with on-campus clinics and hospitals that provide the full gamut of health services to students, faculty, staff, and the community, most colleges and universities offer a range of mental health services geared specifically to the needs of students. For example, The Center for Student Wellbeing  at Duquesne University offers free, confidential  University Counseling Services  to enrolled students to help them overcome anxiety and deal with other mental health conditions. Additionally, the university offers a crisis support line, therapy groups, and workshops that give students the opportunity to discuss their problems as a component of their recovery.  The Duquesne Wellbeing Resources  page offers tips and links to sources for more information about anxiety, stress, depression, and sleep disorders, among other mental health topics.

However, many universities struggle to provide their students with robust mental health services. Students often have to cut through red tape within the institution, and funding such programs and initiatives becomes increasingly difficult in light of the continual belt-tightening at most schools. As Caroline Simon writes in  USA Today , demand for mental health services for college students is increasing at a time when scarce resources make it nearly impossible for schools to hire sufficient counselors to meet the demand. The result is students having to wait weeks before a counselor is available, or once treatment starts, students may be limited to a set number of sessions with the counselor.

External Health Clinics

College students facing anxiety may find that the resources offered by mental health clinics outside their campus community provide the most effective treatment for their conditions. The resources include consulting with mental health practitioners operating in public health facilities and in private offices.

The  Mayo Clinic  describes potential treatment options for individuals who suffer from anxiety:  psychotherapy, medications, clinical trials, lifestyle coaching, home remedies, support groups, behavior modification, and alternative medicine, such as herbal and dietary supplements. College students who have health insurance through their school or another provider may receive therapy or medications through the mental health services of their insurers.

Support Groups for Students with Anxiety

College students suffering from anxiety may find relief by discussing the progress of their recovery with others who have the same condition or other firsthand experience with anxiety. The  Anxiety and Depression Association of America  (ADAA) provides an extensive directory of support groups for individuals dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues. Students who would like to start an anxiety support group to help their peers will find instructions for doing so on the ADAA  Start a Support Group  page.

Tips for Addressing Anxiety in College Students

Anxiety in college students goes far beyond the typical worrying about picking a major or cramming for a final exam. The illness can be debilitating, preventing students from completing their studies and affecting them long after they have left school. Anxiety impacts millions of individuals across the country, but the symptoms and effects of the disorder on a given individual are unique. Understanding the wide-ranging effects of anxiety enables faculty, staff, and other students to recognize the full scope of the illness and empathize with those afflicted by it.

Anxiety is an Illness that Needs to Be Taken Seriously

Even with the growing awareness of the detrimental impact of anxiety, college students may find that peers and instructors do not take their battle with anxiety seriously. More outreach is required to ensure that those suffering from the illness receive proper treatment. The Mayo Clinic  Anxiety Disorders  page provides helpful tips for coping with anxiety, such as discovering what may trigger stress in a person, learning time management techniques, devising an individualized treatment plan, and strictly following the treatment plan.

It may not be immediately apparent to college students when a peer is suffering from anxiety. The behavior and other symptoms characteristic of an anxiety disorder may be perceived by others as strange or bizarre. It is also difficult for students who have experienced the normal, everyday stress and anxiety of college life to fully comprehend the debilitating effects of a full-blown anxiety disorder.

Because anxiety symptoms and effects vary from person to person, effective treatment starts by acknowledging the potential severe impact the illness can have on a person. It is counterproductive to downplay the seriousness of the malady by labeling the symptoms as nothing more than standard “jitters.”

Helping Students Overcome Anxiety Begins with Support

Anxiety is a widespread mental health condition that is also one of the most misunderstood. By showing your support for students who suffer from anxiety, you let them know that they are not alone in their struggle. Remind these students that they are welcome in the campus community, whether by attending an anxiety support group with a peer who has anxiety or by starting a support group or organization on campus. All will be rewarded by sharing in the contributions these students make to society once they return to health and begin their careers.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Start a Support Group

Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Support Groups

The Conversation, “1 in 5 College Students Have Anxiety or Depression. Here’s Why”

Deseret News , “The New Campus Crisis: How Anxiety Is Crippling College Kids Across the Country”

Duquesne University, Confidentiality

Duquesne University, Counseling & Wellbeing: Services

Duquesne University, Wellbeing Resources

Johns Hopkins Medicine, Anxiety and Heart Disease

Mayo Clinic, Anxiety Disorders

Mayo Clinic, “College Depression: What Parents Need to Know”

National Alliance on Mental Illness, “A Diagnosis of Mental Illness Need Not End a College Career”

Penn State University Center for Collegiate Mental Health, 2017 Annual Report

Statista, “Percentage of U.S. College Students that Had Ever Felt Overwhelming Anxiety as of Fall 2018”

U.S. Census Bureau, “More than 76 Million Students Enrolled in U.S. Schools, Census Bureau Reports”

U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Anxiety Disorders

USA Today , “More and More Students Need Mental Health Services. But Colleges Struggle to Keep Up”

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Does Homework Cause Stress? Exploring the Impact on Students’ Mental Health

How much homework is too much?

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Jump to: The Link Between Homework and Stress | Homework’s Impact on Mental Health | Benefits of Homework | How Much Homework Should Teacher’s Assign? | Advice for Students | How Healium Helps

Homework has become a matter of concern for educators, parents, and researchers due to its potential effects on students’ stress levels. It’s no secret students often find themselves grappling with high levels of stress and anxiety throughout their academic careers, so understanding the extent to which homework affects those stress levels is important. 

By delving into the latest research and understanding the underlying factors at play, we hope to curate insights for educators, parents, and students who are wondering  is homework causing stress in their lives?

The Link Between Homework and Stress: What the Research Says

Over the years, numerous studies investigated the relationship between homework and stress levels in students. 

One study published in the Journal of Experimental Education found that students who reported spending more than two hours per night on homework experienced higher stress levels and physical health issues . Those same students reported over three hours of homework a night on average.

This study, conducted by Stanford lecturer Denise Pope, has been heavily cited throughout the years, with WebMD eproducing the below video on the topic– part of their special report series on teens and stress : 

Additional studies published by Sleep Health Journal found that long hours on homework on may be a risk factor for depression while also suggesting that reducing workload outside of class may benefit sleep and mental fitness .

Lastly, a study presented by Frontiers in Psychology highlighted significant health implications for high school students facing chronic stress, including emotional exhaustion and alcohol and drug use.

Homework’s Potential Impact on Mental Health and Well-being

Homework-induced stress on students can involve both psychological and physiological side effects. 

1. Potential Psychological Effects of Homework-Induced Stress:

• Anxiety: The pressure to perform academically and meet homework expectations can lead to heightened levels of anxiety in students. Constant worry about completing assignments on time and achieving high grades can be overwhelming.

• Sleep Disturbances : Homework-related stress can disrupt students’ sleep patterns, leading to sleep anxiety or sleep deprivation, both of which can negatively impact cognitive function and emotional regulation.

• Reduced Motivation: Excessive homework demands could drain students’ motivation, causing them to feel fatigued and disengaged from their studies. Reduced motivation may lead to a lack of interest in learning, hindering overall academic performance.

2. Potential Physical Effects of Homework-Induced Stress:

• Impaired Immune Function: Prolonged stress could weaken the immune system, making students more susceptible to illnesses and infections.

• Disrupted Hormonal Balance : The body’s stress response triggers the release of hormones like cortisol, which, when chronically elevated due to stress, can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance and lead to various health issues.

• Gastrointestinal Disturbances: Stress has been known to affect the gastrointestinal system, leading to symptoms such as stomachaches, nausea, and other digestive problems.

• Cardiovascular Impact: The increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure associated with stress can strain the cardiovascular system, potentially increasing the risk of heart-related issues in the long run.

• Brain impact: Prolonged exposure to stress hormones may impact the brain’s functioning , affecting memory, concentration, and cognitive abilities.

The Benefits of Homework

It’s important to note that homework also offers many benefits that contribute to students’ academic growth and development, such as: 

• Development of Time Management Skills: Completing homework within specified deadlines encourages students to manage their time efficiently. This valuable skill extends beyond academics and becomes essential in various aspects of life.

• Preparation for Future Challenges : Homework helps prepare students for future academic challenges and responsibilities. It fosters a sense of discipline and responsibility, qualities that are crucial for success in higher education and professional life.

• Enhanced Problem-Solving Abilities: Homework often presents students with challenging problems to solve. Tackling these problems independently nurtures critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

While homework can foster discipline, time management, and self-directed learning, the middle ground may be to  strike a balance that promotes both academic growth and mental well-being .

How Much Homework Should Teachers Assign?

As a general guideline, educators suggest assigning a workload that allows students to grasp concepts effectively without overwhelming them . Quality over quantity is key, ensuring that homework assignments are purposeful, relevant, and targeted towards specific objectives. 

Advice for Students: How to balance Homework and Well-being

Finding a balance between academic responsibilities and well-being is crucial for students. Here are some practical tips and techniques to help manage homework-related stress and foster a healthier approach to learning:

• Effective Time Management : Encourage students to create a structured study schedule that allocates sufficient time for homework, breaks, and other activities. Prioritizing tasks and setting realistic goals can prevent last-minute rushes and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.

• Break Tasks into Smaller Chunks : Large assignments can be daunting and may contribute to stress. Students should break such tasks into smaller, manageable parts. This approach not only makes the workload seem less intimidating but also provides a sense of accomplishment as each section is completed.

• Find a Distraction-Free Zone : Establish a designated study area that is free from distractions like smartphones, television, or social media. This setting will improve focus and productivity, reducing time needed to complete homework.

• Be Active : Regular exercise is known to reduce stress and enhance mood. Encourage students to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine, whether it’s going for a walk, playing a sport, or doing yoga.

• Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques : Encourage students to engage in mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, to alleviate stress and improve concentration. Taking short breaks to relax and clear the mind can enhance overall well-being and cognitive performance.

• Seek Support : Teachers, parents, and school counselors play an essential role in supporting students. Create an open and supportive environment where students feel comfortable expressing their concerns and seeking help when needed.

How Healium is Helping in Schools

Stress is caused by so many factors and not just the amount of work students are taking home.  Our company created a virtual reality stress management solution… a mental fitness tool called “Healium” that’s teaching students how to learn to self-regulate their stress and downshift in a drugless way. Schools implementing Healium have seen improvements from supporting dysregulated students and ADHD challenges to empowering students with body awareness and learning to self-regulate stress . Here’s one of their stories. 

By providing students with the tools they need to self-manage stress and anxiety, we represent a forward-looking approach to education that prioritizes the holistic development of every student. 

To learn more about how Healium works, watch the video below.

About the Author

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Sarah Hill , a former interactive TV news journalist at NBC, ABC, and CBS affiliates in Missouri, gained recognition for pioneering interactive news broadcasting using Google Hangouts. She is now the CEO of Healium, the world’s first biometrically powered immersive media channel, helping those with stress, anxiety, insomnia, and other struggles through biofeedback storytelling. With patents, clinical validation, and over seven million views, she has reshaped the landscape of immersive media.

The Truth About Homework Stress: What Parents & Students Need to Know

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Homework is generally given out to ensure that students take time to review and remember the days lessons. It can help improve on a student’s general performance and enhance traits like self-discipline and independent problem solving.

Parents are able to see what their children are doing in school, while also helping teachers determine how well the lesson material is being learned. Homework is quite beneficial when used the right way and can improve student  performance.

This well intentioned practice can turn sour if it’s not handled the right way. Studies show that if a student is inundated with too much homework, not only do they get lower scores, but they are more likely to get stressed.

The age at which homework stress is affecting students is getting lower, some even as low as kindergarten. Makes you wonder what could a five year old possibly need to review as homework?

One of the speculated reasons for this stress is that the complexity of what a student is expected to learn is increasing, while the breaks for working out excess energy are reduced. Students are getting significantly more homework than recommended by the education leaders, some even nearly three times more.

To make matters worse, teachers may give homework that is both time consuming and will keep students busy while being totally non-productive.

Remedial work like telling students to copy notes word for word from their text books will  do nothing to improve their grades or help them progress. It just adds unnecessary stress.

Explore emotional well-being with BetterHelp – your partner in affordable online therapy. With 30,000+ licensed therapists and plans starting from only $65 per week, BetterHelp makes self-care accessible to all. Complete the questionnaire to match with the right therapist.

Effects of homework stress at home

Both parents and students tend to get stressed out at the beginning of a new school year due to the impending arrival of homework.

Nightly battles centered on finishing assignments are a household routine in houses with students.

Research has found that too much homework can negatively affect children. In creating a lack of balance between play time and time spent doing homework, a child can get headaches, sleep deprivation or even ulcers.

And homework stress doesn’t just impact grade schoolers. College students are also affected, and the stress is affecting their academic performance.

Even the parent’s confidence in their abilities to help their children with homework suffers due increasing stress levels in the household.

Fights and conflict over homework are more likely in families where parents do not have at least a college degree. When the child needs assistance, they have to turn to their older siblings who might already be bombarded with their own homework.

Parents who have a college degree feel more confident in approaching the school and discussing the appropriate amount of school work.

“It seems that homework being assigned discriminates against parents who don’t have college degree, parents who have English as their second language and against parents who are poor.” Said Stephanie Donaldson Pressman, the contributing editor of the study and clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology.

With all the stress associated with homework, it’s not surprising that some parents have opted not to let their children do homework. Parents that have instituted a no-homework policy have stated that it has taken a lot of the stress out of their evenings.

The recommended amount homework

The standard endorsed by the National Education Association is called the “10 minute rule”; 10 minutes per grade level per night. This recommendation was made after a number of studies were done on the effects of too much homework on families.

The 10 minute rule basically means 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minute for the second grade all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year in high school. Note that no homework is endorsed in classes under the first grade.

Parents reported first graders were spending around half an hour on homework each night, and kindergarteners spent 25 minutes a night on assignments according to a study carried out by Brown University.

Making a five year old sit still for half an hour is very difficult as they are at the age where they just want to move around and play.

A child who is exposed to 4-5 hours of homework after school is less likely to find the time to go out and play with their friends, which leads to accumulation of stress energy in the body.

Their social life also suffers because between the time spent at school and doing homework, a child will hardly have the time to pursue hobbies. They may also develop a negative attitude towards learning.

The research highlighted that 56% of students consider homework a primary source of stress.

And if you’re curious how the U.S stacks up against other countries in regards to how much time children spend on homework, it’s pretty high on the list .

Signs to look out for on a student that has homework stress

Since not every student is affected by homework stress in the same way, it’s important to be aware of some of the signs your child might be mentally drained from too much homework.

Here are some common signs of homework stress:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Frequent stomachaches and headaches
  • Decreased appetite or changed eating habits
  • New or recurring fears
  • Not able to relax
  • Regressing to behavior they had when younger
  • Bursts of anger crying or whining
  • Becoming withdrawn while others may become clingy
  • Drastic changes in academic performance
  • Having trouble concentrating or completing homework
  • Constantly complains about their ability to do homework

If you’re a parent and notice any of these signs in your child, step in to find out what’s going on and if homework is the source of their stress.

If you’re a student, pay attention if you start experiencing any of these symptoms as a result of your homework load. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher or parents for help if the stress of homework becomes too much for you.

What parents do wrong when it comes to homework stress

Most parents push their children to do more and be more, without considering the damage being done by this kind of pressure.

Some think that homework brought home is always something the children can deal with on their own. If the child cannot handle their homework then these parents get angry and make the child feel stupid.

This may lead to more arguing and increased dislike of homework in the household. Ultimately the child develops an even worse attitude towards homework.

Another common mistake parents make is never questioning the amount of homework their children get, or how much time they spend on it. It’s easy to just assume whatever the teacher assigned is adequate, but as we mentioned earlier, that’s not always the case.

Be proactive and involved with your child’s homework. If you notice they’re spending hours every night on homework, ask them about it. Just because they don’t complain doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.

How can parents help?

  • While every parent wants their child to become successful and achieve the very best, it’s important to pull back on the mounting pressure and remember that they’re still just kids. They need time out to release their stress and connect with other children.
  • Many children may be afraid to admit that they’re overwhelmed by homework because they might be misconstrued as failures. The best thing a parent can do is make home a safe place for children to express themselves freely. You can do this by lending a listening ear and not judging your kids.
  • Parents can also take the initiative to let the school know that they’re unhappy with the amount of homework being given. Even if you don’t feel comfortable complaining, you can approach the school through the parent-teacher association available and request your representative to plead your case.
  • It may not be all the subjects that are causing your child to get stressed. Parents should find out if there is a specific subject of homework that is causing stress. You could also consult with other parents to see what they can do to fix the situation. It may be the amount or the content that causes stress, so the first step is identifying the problem.
  • Work with your child to create a schedule for getting homework done on time. You can set a specific period of time for homework, and schedule time for other activities too. Strike a balance between work and play.
  • Understanding that your child is stressed about homework doesn’t mean you have to allow them not to try. Let them sit down and work on it as much as they’re able to, and recruit help from the older siblings or a neighbor if possible.
  • Check out these resources to help your child with their homework .

The main idea here is to not abolish homework completely, but to review the amount and quality of homework being given out. Stress, depression and lower grades are the last things parents want for their children.

The schools and parents need to work together to find a solution to this obvious problem.

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Is Homework Necessary? Education Inequity and Its Impact on Students

homework causes stress and anxiety statistics

The Problem with Homework: It Highlights Inequalities

How much homework is too much homework, when does homework actually help, negative effects of homework for students, how teachers can help.

Schools are getting rid of homework from Essex, Mass., to Los Angeles, Calif. Although the no-homework trend may sound alarming, especially to parents dreaming of their child’s acceptance to Harvard, Stanford or Yale, there is mounting evidence that eliminating homework in grade school may actually have great benefits , especially with regard to educational equity.

In fact, while the push to eliminate homework may come as a surprise to many adults, the debate is not new . Parents and educators have been talking about this subject for the last century, so that the educational pendulum continues to swing back and forth between the need for homework and the need to eliminate homework.

One of the most pressing talking points around homework is how it disproportionately affects students from less affluent families. The American Psychological Association (APA) explained:

“Kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at afterschool jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs.”

[RELATED] How to Advance Your Career: A Guide for Educators >> 

While students growing up in more affluent areas are likely playing sports, participating in other recreational activities after school, or receiving additional tutoring, children in disadvantaged areas are more likely headed to work after school, taking care of siblings while their parents work or dealing with an unstable home life. Adding homework into the mix is one more thing to deal with — and if the student is struggling, the task of completing homework can be too much to consider at the end of an already long school day.

While all students may groan at the mention of homework, it may be more than just a nuisance for poor and disadvantaged children, instead becoming another burden to carry and contend with.

Beyond the logistical issues, homework can negatively impact physical health and stress — and once again this may be a more significant problem among economically disadvantaged youth who typically already have a higher stress level than peers from more financially stable families .

Yet, today, it is not just the disadvantaged who suffer from the stressors that homework inflicts. A 2014 CNN article, “Is Homework Making Your Child Sick?” , covered the issue of extreme pressure placed on children of the affluent. The article looked at the results of a study surveying more than 4,300 students from 10 high-performing public and private high schools in upper-middle-class California communities.

“Their findings were troubling: Research showed that excessive homework is associated with high stress levels, physical health problems and lack of balance in children’s lives; 56% of the students in the study cited homework as a primary stressor in their lives,” according to the CNN story. “That children growing up in poverty are at-risk for a number of ailments is both intuitive and well-supported by research. More difficult to believe is the growing consensus that children on the other end of the spectrum, children raised in affluence, may also be at risk.”

When it comes to health and stress it is clear that excessive homework, for children at both ends of the spectrum, can be damaging. Which begs the question, how much homework is too much?

The National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association recommend that students spend 10 minutes per grade level per night on homework . That means that first graders should spend 10 minutes on homework, second graders 20 minutes and so on. But a study published by The American Journal of Family Therapy found that students are getting much more than that.

While 10 minutes per day doesn’t sound like much, that quickly adds up to an hour per night by sixth grade. The National Center for Education Statistics found that high school students get an average of 6.8 hours of homework per week, a figure that is much too high according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is also to be noted that this figure does not take into consideration the needs of underprivileged student populations.

In a study conducted by the OECD it was found that “after around four hours of homework per week, the additional time invested in homework has a negligible impact on performance .” That means that by asking our children to put in an hour or more per day of dedicated homework time, we are not only not helping them, but — according to the aforementioned studies — we are hurting them, both physically and emotionally.

What’s more is that homework is, as the name implies, to be completed at home, after a full day of learning that is typically six to seven hours long with breaks and lunch included. However, a study by the APA on how people develop expertise found that elite musicians, scientists and athletes do their most productive work for about only four hours per day. Similarly, companies like Tower Paddle Boards are experimenting with a five-hour workday, under the assumption that people are not able to be truly productive for much longer than that. CEO Stephan Aarstol told CNBC that he believes most Americans only get about two to three hours of work done in an eight-hour day.

In the scope of world history, homework is a fairly new construct in the U.S. Students of all ages have been receiving work to complete at home for centuries, but it was educational reformer Horace Mann who first brought the concept to America from Prussia. 

Since then, homework’s popularity has ebbed and flowed in the court of public opinion. In the 1930s, it was considered child labor (as, ironically, it compromised children’s ability to do chores at home). Then, in the 1950s, implementing mandatory homework was hailed as a way to ensure America’s youth were always one step ahead of Soviet children during the Cold War. Homework was formally mandated as a tool for boosting educational quality in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Education, and has remained in common practice ever since.  

School work assigned and completed outside of school hours is not without its benefits. Numerous studies have shown that regular homework has a hand in improving student performance and connecting students to their learning. When reviewing these studies, take them with a grain of salt; there are strong arguments for both sides, and only you will know which solution is best for your students or school. 

Homework improves student achievement.

  • Source: The High School Journal, “ When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math ,” 2012. 
  • Source: IZA.org, “ Does High School Homework Increase Academic Achievement? ,” 2014. **Note: Study sample comprised only high school boys. 

Homework helps reinforce classroom learning.

  • Source: “ Debunk This: People Remember 10 Percent of What They Read ,” 2015.

Homework helps students develop good study habits and life skills.

  • Sources: The Repository @ St. Cloud State, “ Types of Homework and Their Effect on Student Achievement ,” 2017; Journal of Advanced Academics, “ Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework ,” 2011.
  • Source: Journal of Advanced Academics, “ Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework ,” 2011.

Homework allows parents to be involved with their children’s learning.

  • Parents can see what their children are learning and working on in school every day. 
  • Parents can participate in their children’s learning by guiding them through homework assignments and reinforcing positive study and research habits.
  • Homework observation and participation can help parents understand their children’s academic strengths and weaknesses, and even identify possible learning difficulties.
  • Source: Phys.org, “ Sociologist Upends Notions about Parental Help with Homework ,” 2018.

While some amount of homework may help students connect to their learning and enhance their in-class performance, too much homework can have damaging effects. 

Students with too much homework have elevated stress levels. 

  • Source: USA Today, “ Is It Time to Get Rid of Homework? Mental Health Experts Weigh In ,” 2021.
  • Source: Stanford University, “ Stanford Research Shows Pitfalls of Homework ,” 2014.

Students with too much homework may be tempted to cheat. 

  • Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education, “ High-Tech Cheating Abounds, and Professors Bear Some Blame ,” 2010.
  • Source: The American Journal of Family Therapy, “ Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background ,” 2015.

Homework highlights digital inequity. 

  • Sources: NEAToday.org, “ The Homework Gap: The ‘Cruelest Part of the Digital Divide’ ,” 2016; CNET.com, “ The Digital Divide Has Left Millions of School Kids Behind ,” 2021.
  • Source: Investopedia, “ Digital Divide ,” 2022; International Journal of Education and Social Science, “ Getting the Homework Done: Social Class and Parents’ Relationship to Homework ,” 2015.
  • Source: World Economic Forum, “ COVID-19 exposed the digital divide. Here’s how we can close it ,” 2021.

Homework does not help younger students.

  • Source: Review of Educational Research, “ Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Researcher, 1987-2003 ,” 2006.

To help students find the right balance and succeed, teachers and educators must start the homework conversation, both internally at their school and with parents. But in order to successfully advocate on behalf of students, teachers must be well educated on the subject, fully understanding the research and the outcomes that can be achieved by eliminating or reducing the homework burden. There is a plethora of research and writing on the subject for those interested in self-study.

For teachers looking for a more in-depth approach or for educators with a keen interest in educational equity, formal education may be the best route. If this latter option sounds appealing, there are now many reputable schools offering online master of education degree programs to help educators balance the demands of work and family life while furthering their education in the quest to help others.

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Is Homework a Waste of Students' Time? Study Finds It's the Biggest Cause of Teen Stress

As the debate over the need for homework continues, a new study found that it's the biggest cause of teen stress, leading to sleepless nights and poor academic performance

Julie Mazziotta is the Sports Editor at PEOPLE, covering everything from the NFL to tennis to Simone Biles and Tom Brady. She was previously an Associate Editor for the Health vertical for six years, and prior to joining PEOPLE worked at Health Magazine. When not covering professional athletes, Julie spends her time as a (very) amateur athlete, training for marathons, long bike trips and hikes.

homework causes stress and anxiety statistics

It’s the bane of every teen’s existence. After sitting through hours at school, they leave only to get started on mountains of homework. And educators are mixed on its effectiveness . Some say the practice reinforces what students learned during the day, while others argue that it put unnecessary stress on kids and parents , who are often stuck nagging or helping.

According to a new study, conducted by the Better Sleep Council , that homework stress is the biggest source of frustration for teens, with 74 percent of those surveyed ranking it the highest, above self-esteem (51 percent) parental expectations (45 percent) and bullying (15 percent).

Homework is taking up a large chunk of their time , too — around 15-plus hours a week, with about one-third of teens reporting that it’s closer to 20-plus hours.

The stress and excessive homework adds up to lost sleep, the BSC says. According to the survey, 57 percent of teenagers said that they don’t get enough sleep, with 67 reporting that they get just five to seven hours a night — a far cry from the recommended eight to ten hours. The BSC says that their research shows that when teens feel more stressed, their sleep suffers. They go to sleep later, wake up earlier and have more trouble falling and staying asleep than less-stressed teens.

“We’re finding that teenagers are experiencing this cycle where they sacrifice their sleep to spend extra time on homework, which gives them more stress — but they don’t get better grades,” said Mary Helen Rogers, the vice president of marketing and communications for the BSC.

RELATED VIDEO: To Help Or Not To Help: Moms Talk About Whether Or Not They Help Their Children With Homework

Another interesting finding from this study: students who go to bed earlier and wake up earlier do better academically than those who stay up late, even if those night owls are spending that time doing homework.

To end this cycle of sleep deprivation and stress, the BSC recommends that students try setting a consistent time to go to sleep each night, regardless of leftover homework. And their other sleep tips are good for anyone, regardless of age — keep the temperature between 65 and 67 degrees, turn off the electronic devices before bed, make sure the mattress is comfy and reduce noise with earplugs or sound machines.

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Understanding the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Panic Disorder

  • Social Anxiety Disorder

Separation Anxiety Disorder

  • OCD and PTSD Classification

Living With Anxiety Disorders

  • Next in Anxiety Disorder Guide Causes and Risk Factors of Anxiety

An anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that involves intense feelings of fear or worry. Different types of anxiety disorders affect millions of Americans. For example, 15 million U.S. adults experience social anxiety disorder, and 6 million experience panic disorder.

Anxiety disorders can be challenging and may greatly impact daily life. Learn about the different types of anxiety disorders, their causes, treatment, coping, and more.

Kseniya Ovchinnikova / Getty Images

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People with GAD experience intense feelings of worry or fear that occur most days for six months or longer. This anxiety is related to a variety of different areas of life, such as relationships, careers, health, and safety. GAD affects nearly 6% of adults at some point in their lives.

In addition to worry and fear that is difficult to control, symptoms of GAD may include:

  • Changes in sleep or difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Digestive issues
  • Feeling restless
  • Irritability
  • Tense muscles , often in the neck and shoulders

While some people may be genetically prone to GAD, this condition may run in families partially because of life circumstances and the home environment. The specific causes are not fully understood.

Diagnosis involves an evaluation with a healthcare provider or mental health professional (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker) who will ask questions and assesses the condition.

Treatment can include the following, which may be combined:

  • Psychotherapy : Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches how to modify your thinking, behavior, and reaction to situations. Acceptance and commitment therapy teach strategies to address negative thoughts and reduce anxiety.
  • Medication : Antidepressants or antianxiety medications may be prescribed.

Panic disorder is a condition in which a person experiences many panic attacks over a long period of time. The panic attacks come on suddenly, without any known danger, and involve intense feelings of fear or feelings of losing control. This condition is more than twice as common among females than males.

Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling weak
  • Increased heart rate
  • Light-headedness
  • Pain in the chest
  • Shaking or chills
  • Sweating with our without feeling hot
  • Upset stomach

A person with panic disorder is intensely fearful of experiencing another panic attack, and they often fear or avoid places where they have had a panic attack.

Like GAD, it is not entirely clear what causes panic disorder. People who experience traumatic events or loss are at an increased risk. A mental health professional such as a psychiatrist can diagnose this condition with an evaluation that involves asking questions.

Panic disorder can be treated with talk therapy (psychotherapy) techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), coping techniques, relaxation exercises , support groups, lifestyle changes, and medications (antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, beta-blockers ).

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

SAD involves fear or worry related to social interactions. Women are more likely to experience SAD than men, especially among teens and young women. Additionally, their symptoms tend to be more severe.

Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Avoiding social situations or interactions
  • Extreme shyness or fear of talking to new people
  • Feelings of nervousness , embarrassment, or being judged
  • Overthinking conversations
  • Ruminating about interactions with others

The specific causes of social anxiety disorder are unclear. It may run in families, and stress and environmental factors also may play a role.

Similar to other types of anxiety disorders, SAD can be diagnosed by talking with a mental health professional. Some providers offer virtual appointments, which tend to be easier for people experiencing symptoms of SAD. Treatment may involve talk therapy, medications, or both.

Separation anxiety disorder involves intense fear or reaction related to being apart from those to whom the individual is attached. These fears and reactions are normal for babies and young children but can become a concern if they do not grow out of it around school age. This condition may also affect teens and adults.

Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder include:

  • Difficulty sleeping, leaving the house, or taking part in activities that involve being away from a primary caregiver
  • Extreme reaction when separated from a primary caregiver
  • Fear or worry related to danger for a primary caregiver or self
  • Feeling physically ill when separated from a primary caregiver
  • Intense desire to constantly be with a specific person

The causes of separation anxiety disorder are not fully known. Traumatic experiences, instability at home, and stressful situations can increase the risk of this condition. It can be diagnosed with an evaluation from a mental health professional.

This condition can be treated with talk therapy or play therapy for children and talk therapy or medications for adults.

A phobia is a continuous, irrational, and intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Most people who have a specific phobia have more than one. For example, a person may have a phobia of both spiders and heights.

Phobia symptoms include:

  • Avoiding something specific due to fear, such as needles or dogs

Phobias can be caused by a traumatic event involving the thing that is feared or someone repeatedly or intensely expressing the dangers of what is feared. However, sometimes the cause is unrelated to the specific phobia, or the cause is unknown.

Phobias can be evaluated and diagnosed by a mental health professional. Treatment options include talk therapy and exposure therapy.

New Classifications for OCD and PTSD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) used to be considered anxiety disorders, but are now classified independently.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD involves repeated, unwanted thoughts or urges (obsessions) and feeling the need to do something repeatedly (compulsions). It affects up to 3 million American adults.

Symptoms of OCD include:

  • Feeling fear of losing control of their behavior
  • Feeling the need to clean excessively or an intense fear of germs
  • Fear of forgetting or losing things
  • Placing items in a specific order
  • Repeatedly checking that things have been completed

OCD may be caused by genetics or traumatic experiences, especially in childhood, but the causes are not fully understood. This condition can be diagnosed with an evaluation from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist. It is treated with talk therapy , medications, or both.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD can result from experiencing a traumatic event. It involves a nervous system response after the event has ended and the person is no longer in danger.

PTSD affects about 6% of Americans at some point in their life. It affects about 8% of women compared to 4% of men due to trauma such as sexual assault being more commonly experienced by women.

PTSD symptoms include:

  • Intrusive thoughts, which may include flashbacks
  • Avoiding situations, places, and people that remind them of the traumatic event.
  • Negative thoughts, guilt, shame, fear, distorted beliefs about themself or others
  • Constant vigilance for potential danger
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Jumpiness or being scared easily

PTSD is caused by a past experience of a traumatic event or events. Risk factors include abuse, accidents, and war. After an evaluation, this condition can be diagnosed by a mental health professional. It is treated with talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy CBT, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) , and medications.

Anxiety disorders are challenging, and often severe enough to impact daily life. They are also treatable. Up to 85% of people who receive treatment for anxiety disorders find it to be effective. Additionally, there are many ways to cope with anxiety disorders long term.

Coping methods include:

  • Relaxation exercises
  • Breathing techniques
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Connecting with a trusted friend or family member
  • Lifestyle behaviors such as prioritizing sleep, eating nutritious foods, and exercising regularly

Anxiety disorders involve intense feelings of fear or worry that recur for six months or longer. There are different types of anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder, which is an intense fear of social interactions that may be severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Panic disorder involves sudden episodes of intense fear called panic attacks. Separation anxiety disorder is when an older child, teen, or adult experiences an extreme reaction to being away from a primary caregiver or another loved one.

Generalized anxiety disorder is when anxiety is related to a variety of different areas of life rather than a specific object or situation.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder were once considered anxiety disorders, but they are now considered separate conditions.

Anxiety disorders are treatable. It is important to seek help for these conditions to get relief and prevent further complications. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, reach out to a primary care provider or mental health professional for support.

A Note on Gender and Sex Terminology

Verywell Health acknowledges that  sex and gender  are related concepts, but they are not the same. To reflect our sources accurately, this article uses terms like “female,” “male,” “woman,” and “man” as the sources use them.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety disorders - facts and statistics .

National Institute of Mental Health. Generalized anxiety disorder .

National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders .

National Institute of Mental Health. Generalized anxiety disorder: when worry gets out of control .

National Institute of Mental Health. Panic disorder .

National Institute of Mental Health. Panic disorder: when fear overwhelms .

Asher M, Asnaani A, Aderka IM. Gender differences in social anxiety disorder: a review .  Clinical Psychology Review . 2017;56:1-12. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2017.05.004

National Institute of Mental Health. Social anxiety disorder: more than just shyness .

Laicher H, Int-Veen I, Torka F, et al. Trait rumination and social anxiety separately influence stress-induced rumination and hemodynamic responses . Sci Rep . 2022;12(1):5512. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-08579-1

Nemours KidsHealth. Separation anxiety .

Boston Children's Hospital. Separation anxiety disorder .

Wardenaar KJ, Lim CCW, Al-Hamzawi AO, et al. The cross-national epidemiology of specific phobia in the World Mental Health Surveys .  Psychol Med . 2017;47(10):1744-1760. doi:10.1017/S0033291717000174

MedlinePlus. Phobia—simple/specific .

International OCD Foundation. Who gets OCD ?

National Institute of Mental Health.  Obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Department of Veteran Affairs. How common is PTSD in adults?

American Psychiatric Association.  What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Garakani A, Murrough JW, Freire RC, et al. Pharmacotherapy of anxiety disorders: current and emerging treatment options .  Front Psychiatry . 2020;11:595584. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.595584

By Ashley Olivine, Ph.D., MPH Dr. Olivine is a Texas-based psychologist with over a decade of experience serving clients in the clinical setting and private practice.

Here’s how you know

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • National Institutes of Health

Music and Health: What You Need To Know

Man playing saxophone

.header_greentext{color:green!important;font-size:24px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.header_bluetext{color:blue!important;font-size:18px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.header_redtext{color:red!important;font-size:28px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.header_darkred{color:#803d2f!important;font-size:28px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.header_purpletext{color:purple!important;font-size:31px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.header_yellowtext{color:yellow!important;font-size:20px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.header_blacktext{color:black!important;font-size:22px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.header_whitetext{color:white!important;font-size:22px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.header_darkred{color:#803d2f!important;}.Green_Header{color:green!important;font-size:24px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.Blue_Header{color:blue!important;font-size:18px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.Red_Header{color:red!important;font-size:28px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.Purple_Header{color:purple!important;font-size:31px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.Yellow_Header{color:yellow!important;font-size:20px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.Black_Header{color:black!important;font-size:22px!important;font-weight:500!important;}.White_Header{color:white!important;font-size:22px!important;font-weight:500!important;} Can music be good for you?

Yes, according to a growing body of research. Listening to or making music affects the brain in ways that may help promote health and manage disease symptoms.

Performing or listening to music activates a variety of structures in the brain that are involved in thinking, sensation, movement, and emotion. These brain effects may have physical and psychological benefits. For example, music causes the release of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) that can evoke emotional reactions, memories, and feelings and promote social bonds. Music can even affect the structure of the brain. Certain structures in the brain have been found to be larger in musicians than nonmusicians, with particularly noticeable changes in people who started their musical training at an early age.

Increasing evidence suggests that music-based interventions may be helpful for health conditions that occur during childhood, adulthood, or aging. However, because much of the research on music-based interventions is preliminary, few definite conclusions about their effects have been reached. Many reports on the potential benefits of music-based interventions come from observations of individuals or small groups of people. Evidence of this type is valuable for suggesting new ideas, but carefully designed, scientifically rigorous studies of larger numbers of people are needed to provide stronger evidence on whether music-based interventions are effective for specific purposes.

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Music therapy is a health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. The term “music therapy” is not a description of a specific type of intervention. Instead, it indicates the education, training, and credentials of the therapist who is delivering the intervention.

Music therapy may involve a variety of different activities, including music improvisation, music listening, song writing, music performance, and learning through music. Music therapists may work in many different settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, senior centers, rehabilitation facilities, or schools.

Some of the music-based interventions described in this fact sheet fit the definition of music therapy, but others do not. For example, music-based interventions that involve listening to recorded music are often delivered by health professionals other than music therapists (such as nurses), and therefore do not fit the definition of music therapy.

You can learn more about music therapy on the website of the American Music Therapy Association .

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In general, research studies of music-based interventions do not show any negative effects. However, listening to music at too high a volume can contribute to noise-induced hearing loss. You can find out about this type of hearing loss on the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website .

In addition, because music can be associated with strong memories or emotional reactions, some people may be distressed by exposure to specific pieces or types of music. Extensive playing of musical instruments can lead to pain and injury. Music-based interventions that involve exercise or other types of movement could also lead to injury if appropriate safety precautions are not taken.

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The preliminary research that has been done so far suggests that music-based interventions may be helpful for anxiety, depressive symptoms, and pain associated with a variety of health conditions, as well as for some other symptoms associated with dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions. 

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As mentioned in other sections of this fact sheet, there’s evidence that music-based interventions may help to relieve pain associated with specific health conditions. The two review articles listed below describe evidence indicating that music may be helpful for pain more generally. Newer research continues to find evidence that music may be helpful for pain from a variety of causes, but not every study has shown a beneficial effect. 

  • A 2016 review looked at 97 studies (9,184 participants) of music-based interventions for acute or chronic pain associated with a variety of health problems and medical procedures. The overall evidence suggested that music-based interventions may have beneficial effects on both pain intensity and emotional distress from pain and may lead to decreased use of pain-relieving medicines.
  • A 2017 review of 14 randomized trials (1,178 participants) of music-based interventions for various types of chronic pain found that the interventions reduced self-reported chronic pain and associated depressive symptoms, with a greater effect when the music was chosen by the participant rather than the researcher. The study participants had a variety of conditions that can cause chronic pain, including cancer, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, or osteoarthritis, and most of the interventions involved listening to recorded music.
  • Many but not all newer studies of music-based interventions for pain have had promising results. For example, in recent studies, music-based interventions were helpful for pain associated with childbirth, cancer chemotherapy, a procedure in which shock waves are used to break up kidney stones, retrieval of eggs for in vitro fertilization, treatment of nose fractures, and sickle cell disease. However, music didn’t seem to be helpful for reducing moderate pain further after use of a lidocaine spray for loop electrosurgical excision (a gynecological procedure), and the results of studies on pain during cystoscopy (a procedure in which a tube is inserted into the bladder) and pain during colonoscopy were inconsistent.

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Music-based interventions have been evaluated for their effects on anxiety in a variety of disease conditions and health care settings. Some examples are given in this section, and others are discussed in the sections on specific health conditions. Most studies have had promising results, except for studies on anxiety associated with dental care.

  • A 2013 review of 26 studies (2,051 participants) showed that listening to recorded music significantly reduced anxiety in people who were waiting to have surgery. However, there was potential for bias in most of the studies because the investigators who performed the studies knew which participants had listened to music.
  • A 2016 review of 17 studies (1,381 participants) that evaluated the effect of music-based interventions on anxiety in adults with cancer suggested that the interventions may have a large anxiety-reducing effect. However, there was a high risk of bias in the studies. 
  • A 2015 review of 5 studies (290 participants) in people who were having dialysis treatments suggested that listening to music reduced anxiety. However, these studies have limitations because of their small size and high risk of bias.
  • A 2018 review concluded that it’s unclear whether listening to music is helpful for dental anxiety. Some studies have suggested that listening to music as a distraction may not be adequate to reduce anxiety in children or highly anxious adults who are having dental care. More active types of music-based interventions (for example, a music-assisted relaxation technique that’s taught to the patient in advance) might be helpful in dental settings but have not been evaluated in formal studies.  

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It’s uncertain whether music-based interventions are helpful for people with ASD.

  • A 2021 review of 22 studies (850 participants) on music therapy for children with ASD was unable to reach any definite conclusions on whether adding music therapy to their care is beneficial, although some studies had promising results. For example, some studies of educational music therapy (involving techniques such as musical games) showed possible benefits on the children’s speech, and some studies of improvisational music therapy (in which children produce music) showed possible benefits on social functioning.
  • One particularly notable study of music therapy for children with ASD (which was included in the review described above) was a multinational trial involving 364 children from 9 countries. It is the largest study completed so far, and its design was especially rigorous. In this study, the severity of symptoms related to difficulties in social communication did not differ between children who received music therapy along with standard care and those who received standard care alone.

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Preliminary evidence suggests that music-based interventions may be helpful for several types of distress in people with cancer.

  • A 2021 review of randomized controlled trials (studies in which participants were randomly assigned to a music-based intervention group or a control group), which included 81 trials and 5,576 participants, concluded that in adults with cancer, music interventions may have a large anxiety-reducing effect, a moderately strong beneficial effect on depression, a moderate pain-reducing effect, and a large effect on the quality of life. Most of the trials had a high risk of bias, so their results need to be interpreted with caution. Only seven of the studies included in this review involved children. Two of these studies suggested a beneficial effect on anxiety; no other conclusions could be reached from the small amount of evidence available.
  • A 2021 review of 11 studies (491 participants) on music interventions for children and adolescents with cancer, which included some studies that were less rigorous than a randomized controlled trial, found evidence suggesting that music-based interventions may decrease anxiety, perceived pain, and depression symptoms and improve state of mind, self-esteem, and quality of life.

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A 2021 systematic review of 12 studies (812 participants) showed that music-based interventions were helpful for shortness of breath, anxiety, and sleep quality in adults with COPD but were not helpful for depression. Because the studies were brief (several days to 12 months) and because researchers measured effects in different ways in different studies, there is some uncertainty about the conclusions.

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Much research is being done on the potential benefits of music-based interventions for people with cognitive impairment or various types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Limited evidence suggests that music-based interventions may improve emotional well-being, behavioral challenges, and quality of life in people with these conditions. Whether the interventions have benefits for cognitive functioning is unclear; effects might depend on the population studied or the type of intervention used.

  • A 2018 review evaluated 22 studies (1,097 participants) of music-based interventions for people with dementia who were living in institutions. Some of the interventions were receptive (listening to music), some were active (singing, playing instruments, moving to music, etc.), and some were a combination of the two. The evidence from these studies indicated that music-based interventions probably reduce depressive symptoms and improve overall behavioral challenges. They may also improve emotional well-being and quality of life and reduce anxiety. However, the interventions may have little or no effect on agitation, aggression, or cognitive function.
  • A 2021 review looked at 21 studies (1,472 participants) of people with either mild cognitive impairment or mild or moderate dementia; some of the people studied were living in institutions, but others were living in the community. All the music interventions were active; studies that only involved listening to music were not included. Nine of the studies (495 participants) were included in a quantitative analysis of effects on cognitive functioning; this analysis indicated that the music-based interventions had a small beneficial effect. There was also some evidence for beneficial effects on mood and quality of life.

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A 2017 review looked at 9 studies (421 participants) of music-based interventions in adults or adolescents with depression. There was moderate-quality evidence that adding music-based interventions to usual treatment improved depression symptoms when compared with usual treatment alone. Music-based interventions also helped decrease anxiety levels and improve functioning of people with depression (for example, their ability to maintain involvement in work, activities, and relationships).

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A 2020 systematic review of 7 studies (334 participants) found evidence that music-based interventions were beneficial for pain, depression, and quality of life in people with fibromyalgia. However, the amount of research was limited, and the quality of the research was low.

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A 2021 review of music-based interventions for people with multiple sclerosis (10 trials, 429 participants) found consistent evidence that the interventions were beneficial for coordination, balance, some aspects of gait and walking, emotional status, and pain, but no effect was observed for mental fatigability or memory.

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Researchers are evaluating the potential benefits of several types of music-based interventions for Parkinson’s disease symptoms. 

  • Rhythmic auditory stimulation.  Rhythmic auditory stimulation uses pulsed sounds (such as those produced by a metronome) to help people synchronize their movements to the rhythm of the sounds. This technique is used to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their ability to walk. A 2021 analysis of 5 studies (209 total participants) showed significant improvements in gait speed and stride length in people with Parkinson’s disease who participated in rhythmic auditory stimulation. However, the quality of evidence was low, and the number of studies and participants was small.
  • Music-based movement therapy.  Music-based movement therapy combines physical activities such as dance or rhythmic exercises with music. Therapies that involve physical activity have been shown to be helpful for a variety of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Adding music to the therapy might have additional benefits by providing auditory cues for movement and making the activities more enjoyable. A 2021 analysis of 17 studies (598 participants) of music-based movement therapy showed evidence of improvements in motor function, balance, freezing of gait, walking speed, and mental health but not gait cadence, stride length, or quality of life.
  • Singing. The potential benefits of singing for people with Parkinson’s disease have been studied primarily in terms of effects on speech. In a 2016 review of 7 studies (102 participants), 5 studies found some evidence of a beneficial effect on speech.

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Music-based interventions are widely used in neonatal intensive care units. However, evidence for physiological benefits for newborn infants is limited. 

  • In a 2020 review of 16 studies (826 infants), 12 of the studies found some evidence of benefits on physiological outcomes (such as heart rate or oxygen saturation), but several of the studies included only small numbers of infants, and the intervention methods used varied from one study to another. The reviewers concluded that the current data are insufficient to confirm physiological benefits. No harmful effects of music-based interventions were seen in the studies included in this review.

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Music-based interventions have been evaluated as adjunct treatments (additions to usual treatment) for people with schizophrenia. A 2020 review of 18 studies (1,212 participants) indicated that adjunct music-based interventions may improve a group of schizophrenia symptoms known as “negative symptoms,” such as reduced emotion and self-neglect, as well as depression symptoms and quality of life. However, music-based interventions did not reduce “positive symptoms,” such as hallucinations and delusions. The quality of the evidence was low.

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Listening to music may improve sleep quality in people with insomnia.

  • A 2022 review looked at 13 studies (1,007 participants) that examined the effect of listening to recorded music in people with insomnia. The studies suggested music had no effect on insomnia severity compared to no treatment or treatment as usual. Moderate-certainty evidence did suggest, however, that listening to music has a beneficial effect on subjective sleep quality. The studies also provided low-certainty evidence that listening to music might help improve the speed of falling asleep, the length of time spent sleeping, and the amount of time a person is asleep compared to the total time spent in bed.
  • It’s common for older people to have trouble sleeping. A 2021 review looked at 16 studies of music-based interventions for sleep in older adults (812 participants); 11 studies evaluated music listening, and the other 5 evaluated more complex interventions. The results were mixed, with some studies suggesting that the music interventions were helpful, while others did not.

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Music-based interventions, particularly music therapy, may be helpful for improving physical and psychological markers associated with stress, according to two related reviews.

  • In a 2020 review with 104 studies (9,617 participants), investigators looked at the effects of a variety of music-based interventions on measures associated with stress, including both physical measures (heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of stress-related hormones) and psychological measures (anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, and feelings of worry). The music-based interventions had a small-to-medium sized beneficial effect on the physical measures and a medium-to-large beneficial effect on the psychological measures. 
  • A second review looked at 47 studies (2,747 participants) of music therapy (excluding other music-based interventions) and found an overall medium-to-large beneficial effect on stress-related outcomes. The effects were greater than those seen in the larger review. The investigators who performed the review suggested that the opportunity for music therapists to tailor interventions to the needs of individual patients might account for the difference.

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Music-based interventions may be helpful in the rehabilitation of people who have had a stroke. A 2019 review of 27 studies (730 participants) found positive effects on physical status (upper-limb activity, various aspects of walking, balance), cognition (paying attention, communication), and mood. In particular, rhythmic auditory stimulation (which involves the use of a metronome combined with physical activities) had beneficial effects on gait and balance, and receptive music therapy (which involves listening to music while performing another task) was helpful for mood and some aspects of cognitive function.

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Tinnitus is the symptom that people often describe as “ringing in the ears,” although it can also sound like roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing. It can be caused by noise-induced hearing loss, blockage of the ear canal by earwax, ear or sinus infections, or other health conditions, or by starting or stopping various medications. Sometimes, tinnitus has no obvious cause.

  • Sound therapies. Various types of sounds, including music, have been used to try to mask tinnitus. However, according to a 2019 review of studies conducted up to that time, the effects of these sound therapies are modest; few people achieve complete remission of tinnitus from sound therapies.
  • Notched music therapy. A specific type of music therapy called “notched” music therapy has been suggested as a possible way to reduce the severity of tinnitus. Notched music therapy involves listening to music that has been modified to remove sounds close in frequency to the frequency of the tinnitus sound perceived by the patient. Two recent studies that compared notched music with conventional music did not find notched music to be more helpful in reducing the symptoms or impact of tinnitus. However, some earlier studies suggested that the loudness of tinnitus sounds could be reduced with notched music therapy.

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NIH and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in association with the National Endowment for the Arts, are sponsoring an initiative called Sound Health to increase understanding of music’s effect on the brain and the potential clinical applications. The first Sound Health research projects began in 2019. Some projects are investigating music’s mechanism of action in the brain and how music may be applied to treat symptoms of disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and chronic pain. Others are looking at the effects of music on children’s developing brains.

Topics of NCCIH-supported studies within the Sound Health initiative include:

  • The effects of music-based interventions on neurodevelopment and pain response in preterm infants
  • Using self-generated rhythmic cues to enhance gait in people with Parkinson’s disease
  • The impact of singing interventions on markers of cardiovascular health in older people with cardiovascular disease

In collaboration with the Foundation for the NIH and the Renée Fleming Foundation, NIH has developed a toolkit for rigorous, reproducible, well-powered music-based interventions for brain disorders of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Three workshops were held in 2021 to gather input from experts in a variety of relevant fields, and a request for information was issued to get stakeholder feedback. The toolkit , which was released in 2023, will be pilot tested in demonstration projects. NCCIH is playing a lead role in this effort.

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Nccih clearinghouse.

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226

Telecommunications relay service (TRS): 7-1-1

Website: https://www.nccih.nih.gov

Email: [email protected] (link sends email)

Know the Science

NCCIH and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide tools to help you understand the basics and terminology of scientific research so you can make well-informed decisions about your health. Know the Science features a variety of materials, including interactive modules, quizzes, and videos, as well as links to informative content from Federal resources designed to help consumers make sense of health information.

Explaining How Research Works (NIH)

Know the Science: How To Make Sense of a Scientific Journal Article

Understanding Clinical Studies (NIH)

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  • Aalbers   S, Fusar-Poli L, Freeman RE, et al.  Music therapy for depression . Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2017;(11):CD004517. Accessed at cochranelibrary.com on October 29, 2021.
  • Bieleninik Ł, Geretsegger M, Mössler K, et al.  Effects of improvisational music therapy vs enhanced standard care on symptom severity among children with autism spectrum disorder. The TIME—a randomized clinical trial . JAMA. 2017;318(6):525-535.
  • Bradt J, Dileo C, Magill L, et al. Music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes in cancer patients . Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016;(8):CD006911. Accessed at cochranelibrary.com on October 29, 2021.
  • Bradt J, Dileo C, Shim M. Music interventions for preoperative anxiety . Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013;(6):CD006908. Accessed at cochranelibrary.com  on October 29, 2021.
  • Burrai F, Apuzzo L, Zanotti R. Effectiveness of rhythmic auditory stimulation on gait in Parkinson disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis . Holistic Nursing Practice. June 11, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].
  • Cheever T, Taylor A, Finkelstein R, et al. NIH/Kennedy Center workshop on music and the brain: finding harmony . Neuron. 2018;97(6):1214-1218.
  • Collins FS, Fleming R. Sound health: an NIH-Kennedy Center initiative to explore music and the mind . JAMA. 2017;317(24):2470-2471.
  • de Witte   M, da Silva Pinho A, Stams G-J, et al. Music therapy for stress reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis . Health Psychology Review. 2022;16(1):134-159.
  • de Witte   M, Spruit A, van Hooren S, et al. Effects of music interventions on stress-related outcomes: a systematic review and two meta-analyses . Health Psychology Review. 2020;14(2):294-324.
  • Dorris   JL, Neely S, Terhorst L, et al. Effects of music participation for mild cognitive impairment and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis . Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  2021;69(9):2659-2667.
  • Foroushani SM, Herman CA, Wiseman CA, et al. Evaluating physiologic outcomes of music interventions in the neonatal intensive care unit: a systematic review . Journal of Perinatology. 2020;40(12):1770-1779.
  • Garza-Villareal   EA, Pando V, Vuust P, et al. Music-induced analgesia in chronic pain conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis . Pain Physician. 2017;20(7):597-610.
  • Jespersen KV, Pando-Naude V, Koenig J, et al. Listening to music for insomnia in adults . Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2022;(8):CD010459. Accessed at cochranelibrary.com on September 8, 2022.
  • Lee   JH. The effects of music on pain: a meta-analysis . Journal of Music Therapy. 2016;53(4):430-477.
  • van der Steen   JT, Smaling HJ, van der Wouden JC, et al. Music-based therapeutic interventions for people with dementia . Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018;(7):CD003447. Accessed at cochranelibrary.com on October 29, 2021.

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  • Bird HA. Overuse syndrome in musicians. Clinical Rheumatology. 2013;32(4):475-479.
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  • Buglione A, Saccone G, Mas M, et al. Effect of music on labor and delivery in nulliparous singleton pregnancies: a randomized clinical trial. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics.  2020;310(3):693-698.
  • Burrai F, Magavern EF, Micheluzzi V, et al. Effectiveness of music to improve anxiety in hemodialysis patients. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Holistic Nursing Practice. 2020;34(6):324-333.
  • Cakmak O, Cimen S, Tarhan H, et al. Listening to music during shock wave lithotripsy decreases anxiety, pain, and dissatisfaction. A randomized controlled study. Wiener Klinische Wochenscrift.  2017;129(19-20):687-691.
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  • Chantawong N, Charoenkwan K. Effects of music listening during loop electrosurgical excision procedure on pain and anxiety: a randomized trial. Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease. 2017;21(4):307-310.
  • Cheung CWC, Yee AWW, Chan PS, et al. The impact of music therapy on pain and stress reduction during oocyte retrieval—a randomized controlled trial. Reproductive Biomedicine Online. 2018;37(2):145-152.
  • Çift   A, Benlioğlu C. Effect of different musical types on patient’s relaxation, anxiety and pain perception during shock wave lithotripsy: a randomized controlled study. Urology Journal. 2020;17(1):19-23.
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NCCIH thanks Wen Chen, Ph.D., Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D., and David Shurtleff, Ph.D., NCCIH, for their review of this fact sheet. 

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Related Topics

Music and Health - Systematic Reviews/Reviews/Meta-analyses (PubMed®)

Music and Health - Randomized Controlled Trials (PubMed®)

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