How Health Behaviors Relate to Academic Performance via Affect: an Intensive Longitudinal Study
1University of Basel, Department of Psychology, Division of Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology, Basel, Switzerland
2Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Adaptive Rationality, Berlin, Germany
Background: This intensive longitudinal study examined effects of health behaviors on affect experience and academic performance, indicators of mental health and cognitive functioning. Methods: Over the freshman year, 282 university students answered 65 online-assessments about sleep quality, eating behavior, physical activity, affect, learning behavior, and exam grades. Findings: Multilevel structural equation models over the first year, showed that subjects with on average better sleep quality and regular eating behavior but not physical activity predicted better learning behavior, which in turn was associated with passing exams Relations of all health behaviors with learning behavior were mediated by affect. In terms of day-to-day dynamics, on days with better sleep quality and eating behavior but not physical activity, participants reported better learning behavior. Daily affect mediated the relations of all health behaviors with learning behavior. Discussion: Results provide a first understanding of between- and within-person variations in health behaviors, affect and academic performance. They could inform health prevention or intervention programs for university students.