Homework and Mental Health

“According to the American Psychiatric Association, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between eleven and eighteen years old” (Teen Suicide). Many teenagers live in a state of constant stress, sometimes enough so to develop mental disorders or take their own lives. Although it is impossible to remove all or even most of the stress from teenage lives, reducing the school workload of high school students would alleviate some of the daily anxiety teenagers face.

Too much homework harms teenagers’ mental health, so classes should assign a maximum of thirty minutes of homework per night. Too much homework prevents students from having a full night sleep, causes them stress, and can lead to the development of mental disorders. Many teenagers go to school and have jobs and play sports and partake in clubs and have religious obligations and try to maintain a social life. All of these activities leave little room for something very important. Sleep! A 2006 study by the National Sleep Foundation states that only about twenty percent of teenagers get the recommended amount of sleep and, of the teens who reported not sleeping enough, 73% also reported feeling unhappy and depressed and 58% reported constant feelings of anxiety (Ponte).

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A reduction in homework amount would allow teenagers more time to have better night sleep, which improves overall disposition and mental health. Not only does excessive homework hurt students’ sleep, but schoolwork is also the greatest cause of stress for teenagers. “The MTV and AP survey found that teens see school as the largest source of stress in their lives” (Preface). If school causes students so much stress, we should do something about it, right? William Crain PhD., professor psychology at the City College of New York, says, “Kids are developing more school-related stomach aches, headaches, sleep problems, and depression than ever before.

“All of this work and stress and lack of sleep can put students in such a bad place mentally that they may develop mental disorders. Many students, especially high-achievement students, work through the day, the night, and next morning only to have a fresh load of assignments piled upon them tomorrow, but the brain cannot work at one hundred and ten percent all of the time and something has to give. While discussing the rise of mental illness in her school, Christy Dawson, assistant principal at Los Altos High School remarks that mental disorders are becoming more prevalent in teens because “they’re not expected to be great; they’re expected to be stupendous” (Noguchi). An estimated one in eight teenagers suffers from depression (Teen Suicide) and an estimated eighteen percent have an anxiety disorder (Introduction). School work alone cannot account for all of this, but as the single strongest stressor, alleviating school stress would have an impact.

Reducing the amount of school work would solve part of the problem. Although homework can be harmful to mental health, many people believe that more homework improves grades and test scores, so the amount of homework a class assigns should not be reduced. Small amounts of homework do have undisputed benefits: however, larger assignments do not improve comprehension of material and may actually be more of a hindrance to learning than an boon. During international testing conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2008, one of the top scoring countries was Finland, which was far above the US in rankings (Gamerman). Finnish schools conduct class more casually than the United States and rarely assign more than thirty minutes of homework per night.

In addition, the average Finnish student experiences less school-related anxiety than their American counterpart due to college in Finland being free. To date, there have been no studies conducted showing a positive correlation between amount of homework and testing scores and elementary and middle school. Although homework has been proven to help high school students, whatever grade improvements that may be evident with smaller amounts of homework disappear whenever too much homework is assigned (Ponte). Large assignments of homework do not benefits students, any assessment score would remain that same without the work and students would have less stress weighing down on them. Smaller amounts of homework and less stress is entirely more beneficial than overworking students and hurting their mental health. So homework is entirely useless? No, there are benefits to small amounts of homework and out of class work, but students need sleep and sanity more than large assignments.

Too much homework hurts teenagers mentally, which can also cause teenagers to do worse on their work, whether in school or out. Also, too much homework only harms students mentally without improving test scores of knowledge comprehension. Students lose points and purpose when all they do is work, and nobody benefits. Limiting homework to thirty minutes per class per night would still allow any necessary homework to be done, but would save students from too much stress or worse.