Too Much Homework Can Lead to Stress and Physical Illness, Study Finds

Researchers recommend no more than two hours of homework per night

A new study has found that too much homework can cause stress and physical health problems to high school students in upper middle-class communities.

The research, conducted by Stanford Graduate School of Education, sought to examine the effects of excessive homework load on students' well-being and engagement and found that some students who were doing more than three hours of homework per night were negatively impacted, as they showed high stress levels and physical health problems.

More than 4,300 students from ten high-performing public and private high schools in affluent California communities have participated in the survey, and the findings also revealed that increased homework load can lead to a lack of balance in children's lives.

For their study, researchers used data from surveys as well as students' answers to open-ended questions in order to assess their attitudes about homework and engagement in school.

“We found a clear connection between the students' stress and physical impacts - migraines, ulcers and other stomach problems, sleep deprivation and exhaustion, and weight loss,” said Denise Pope, co-author of the study, according to Daily Mail.

Although the Brookings Institute's 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education says that most American students' homework load has remained basically unchanged since 1984, 56% of the surveyed students cited homework as a primary stressor in their lives.

Researchers found that students in upper middle-class communities (where the average household income is more than $90,000/€65,300, and 93 percent of students go to college) spend an average of 3.1 hours doing homework, but there are others who do up to five hours per night.

Most of these students attend privileged schools, where competition is fierce and there is high pressure for academic performance. That's why they consider schoolwork as a dominating force in their lives.

However, the study didn't find any connection between the time spent on homework and how much the student enjoyed it, as many of them confessed they did home assignments only to keep their grades up.

“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is 'inherently good,' and instead suggest that researchers, practitioners, students, and parents unpack why the default practice of assigning heavy homework loads exists, in the face of evidence of its negative effects,” researchers said in their conclusions.

Moreover, the research revealed that heavy homework leads to a series of problems, such as stress, health issues caused by sleep deprivation and exhaustion, lack of time for themselves and other social activities.

Pope highlighted that high school students should spend “nothing more than two hours” doing homework, while middle school students should learn at home no more than 90 minutes.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Experimental Education.

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