SEOUL, May 24 (Korea Bizwire) – A recent study has revealed that the happiness level reported by middle school and high school students increased when their school day started an hour later than usual.
Jae Jeong Lee, Gyeonggi Province’s Superintendent of Education, who took office in July 2014, has been promoting the ‘9 a.m. School Start Time’ movement in which 99.7 percent of middle schools and 92.1 percent of high schools in the province are currently participating.
A research team at the Catholic University of Korea’s St. Vincent’s hospital led by Professor Seung Chul Hong reported the results of the study on May 23 after conducting a 10-month tracking observation study at one middle school (263 subjects) and one high school (104 subjects).
As part of the study, schools adjusted their start time from 8:20 a.m. to 9 a.m. for middle school students and from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. for high school students, then collected data on the students’ reported levels of satisfaction after two months and then 12 months on a scale of 10 points.
The overall happiness level reported by the middle school students jumped from the original 5.87 points to 6.89 points after two months , and then up to 6.92 points after 12 months. High school students also reported higher happiness, originally reporting 5.60 points but reporting 6.64 points after two months of starting earlier and then 6.56 points after 12 months.
On the other hand, the study also demonstrated that pushing back the school start time improved the subjects’ overall student conduct, with students displaying lower levels of sleepiness and higher concentration during classes, as well as a decreased frequency of late arrivals to school.
Middle school students participating in the study, for instance, were originally late for school 1.38 times over a set period on average but were only late 1.12 times after two months and 1.04 times after 12 months. High school students likewise were late only 0.90 times after two months and 0.94 times after 12 months, showing a drastic decrease from the original 1.19 times – a great improvement from when they had to arrive at school by 8 a.m.
The students’ level of sleepiness also decreased with the changed school start time. In the case of middle school students, the reported level of sleepiness during class was 4.87 at the beginning of the study, but 4.07 after two months and then 4.30 after 12 months. Similarly, high school students originally reported 5.55 points but reported 4.60 points after two months and 4.74 after 12 months.
Another noticeable improvement was the students’ concentration levels during classes. Middle school students who reported their level of concentration during class as 5.83 points at the beginning of the study reported 6.48 points by the end of two months and then 6.80 points by the end of 12 months, while the concentration level reported by the high school students rose from the original 5.43 points to 6.14 points after two months and then 6.52 after 12 months.
Even the number of students who ate breakfast increased. The number of times the middle school students had breakfast, which was 5.03 before the changed start time, rose to 5.53 at the end of two months and then 5.65 times at the end of 12 months, while high school students initially reported 4.53 times per week before the study but reported 5.15 times after two months and then 5.56 after 12 months.
“Even though total hours of sleep did not increase even with the change of school start times to 9 a.m. for all of the middle school and high school students in the study, pushing back the school start time improved quality of sleep,” said Professor Hong. “It creates a sleeping cycle that is better suited to adolescents’ physiological circadian rhythms. Our analysis shows that the changed school start time had a positive influence on the students, starting with improving the quality of their sleep, and then their emotions and school life.”
The research team explained, however, that while pushing back school start times improved the psychological state of students in areas of rage and suicidal urges, the improvement was not enough to be statistically significant. The results of the study were announced at the Fourth International Pediatric Sleep Association Congress in Taiwan during the month of March.
By Esther J. Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org)