I am interested in long term negative physiological effects that some students experience following overstudying.

  • What is the scientific basis for overstudying?
  • Is over studying correlated with long term decreases of cognitive ability?

2 Answers 2


The research literature on stress in general and burnout in particular would be relevant. The stress literature is massive and there are studies that have a particular focus on students.

For example Jacobs and Dodd did a study on college student burnout:

Measures of social support (Multidimen- sional Scale of Perceived Social Support), personality (General Temperament Survey), and workload were related to psychological burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory) among 149 college students ( M = 20.8 yrs.). High levels of burnout were predicted by negative temperament and subjective workload, but actual workload (academic and vocational) had little to do with burnout. Low levels of burnout were predicted by positive tempera- ment, participation in extracurricular activities, and social support, especially from friends.

They also cite some of the literature on stress in college students:

there has been a substantial amount of research on stress among general college students. Stress has been shown to be correlated with college students’ health behaviors (Weidner, Kohl- mann, Dotzauer, & Burns, 1996), anxiety concerning exams (Abouserie, 1994; Ever- son, Tobias, Hartman, & Gourgey, 1993; Sloboda, 1990), self-esteem (Abouserie; Newby-Fraser & Schlebusch, 1997), and coping strategies that students use (Dwyer & Cummings, 2001). To the extent that stress is an important component of burnout (Maslach & Jackson, 1981), this research is relevant to the development of a model of burnout among college students. Between classes, exams, employment, and extra- curricular activities, students are likely to experience high levels of stress, but do they experience burnout? Much research is needed to determine the prevalence of burnout, to identify important intrapersonal and interpersonal factors that influence burnout, and to develop effective inter- ventions to prevent and reduce burnout in college students.


  • Jacobs, S.R. & Dodd, D. (2003). Student burnout as a function of personality, social support, and workload. Journal of College Student Development, 44, 291-303.

You've actually stated 2 questions in one. The second one is answered by Jeromy, the burnout or burnout-like states are the consequence of any overworking. I would also add the health problems, but those are not particularly on topic.

When it comes to the reasons, the learning can become the addiction, as most of the things you do. It can become obsession. There are people who are collecting knowledge, and want to have as much facts as possible in their heads, such as the other are collecting the coins or stamps or anything else.

I personally know many people, which, during their studies, have spent most of their time in the library, while their effects were not better as those of their collegues, who have spent not as much as the half of that time learning. That people were simply like ill when they weren't learning, they couldn't find their place. Many of them are now internet-addicted or have alcohol problem. It seems to be the neurotype, that easily becomes obsessed about something (therefore, extremally vulnerable to addictions).

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    $\begingroup$ While the anecdotal evidence for your last paragraph is probably plentiful, it would make your answer stronger if you found a reference or two on it, I think. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 8:26

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