'Tired, stressed and bored' – why most teens hate high school


It's supposed to be the best time in your life, but a new study finds that US high school pupils have mostly negative feelings throughout their school day.

Surveying nearly 22 000 pupils nationwide, researchers found about 75% expressed boredom, anger, sadness, fear or stress.

Girls were slightly more negative than boys, according to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Yale Child Study Center researchers.

A second survey asked 472 high school pupils in Connecticut about their feelings at distinct moments throughout the school day. The teens reported negative feelings 60% of the time, according to the study.

Negative emotions

The levels of negativity were "higher than we expected", said study co-author and research scientist Zorana Ivcevic. "We know from talking to students that they are feeling tired, stressed and bored, but were surprised by how overwhelming it was," she said in a university news release.

The study's co-author is Marc Brackett, founding director of the Center for Emotional Intelligence. He said, "Overall, students see school as a place where they experience negative emotions."

The researchers also found that the most common positive feelings about school – calm and happy – were vague.

"They are on the positive side of zero," Ivcevic said, "but they are not energised or enthusiastic."

Feeling "interested" or "curious" would reveal a high level of student engagement at school that's associated with deeper and more enduring learning, she noted.

Many of the negative feelings expressed by students may be interrelated. For example, tiredness may contribute to boredom and stress.

Sleep deprivation

"Boredom is in many ways similar to being tired," Ivcevic said. "It's a feeling of being drained, low-energy. Physical states, such as being tired, can be at times misattributed as emotional states, such as boredom."

The way pupils feel at school affects their academic performance and their overall health and well-being, the researchers noted.

"Students spend a lot of their waking time at school," Ivcevic said. "Kids are at school to learn, and emotions have a substantial impact on their attention. If you're bored, do you hear what's being said around you?"

Recent research has looked at the effect of early start times for high schools and how that leads to sleep deprivation among teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high schools start at 8:30 am or later, but most US schools start much earlier.

"It is possible that being tired is making school more taxing, so that it is more difficult for students to show curiosity and interest. It is like having an extra weight to carry," Ivcevic added.

The new report was published in the Journal of Learning and Instruction.

Image credit: iStock

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