Why Too Much Homework Causes Stress: What We Know So Far

Have you ever felt completely swamped with homework to the extent that you begin to feel stress? Why is it the case that an overload of homework can cause stress? Here’s what we know so far:

What is stress?

We use the word ‘stress’ so often that it is perhaps sometimes underestimated how much of a problem it can be. We are all guilty of saying we feel stressed out after breaking a bowl whilst doing the vacuuming, for example. But stress as a medical condition is something else and can often be accompanied by anxiety problems, and it can lead to depression as well. So when we talk of homework being stressful, it’s important to distinguish between just feeling unhappy and tired over the amount of homework you have, and actually experiencing stress.

Recent studies have shown…

Recent studies conducted by Australian researchers compared average student scores against the amount of homework given. They found that when there was an increase of homework, the lower the scores were. The study clearly stated that too much homework can cause lower grades.


The study also revealed that too much homework can lead pupils to suffer from depression. Children, and adults as well, should adopt an 8-8-8 circadian rhythm. This means they should have 8 hours work, 8 hours rest and 8 hours play. When this balance is thrown off it can indeed lead to depression. This 8-8-8 rule is often not adopted by current school standards and expectations.

It’s safe to say that many adults are not getting that balance right too.

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What’s the answer?

So is this a good advocate for abolishing homework forever? Well, let’s not go that far. The important thing here is to get the balance right.

A great example is Finland, where new homework practices have been employed. Schoolchildren now spend only 30 minutes each evening on homework; with no time spent on homework at the weekends. The results have shown less stress and higher grades, so maybe it is a scheme that should be rolled out globally! Having said that, more research needs to be conducted into this subject.

Perhaps different countries respond differently to quantity of workloads. It would be interesting to do a study in China where the hours are long and the workload is high, compared to Western standards. It would also seem that China’s students achieve some of the best academic scores in the world.

Let’s hope more studies are conducted soon. After all, I’m sure we all want students to be stress-free, happy and well educated. So how do we achieve the best balance?

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