People who are self-admitted procrastinators are also more likely to have heart disease, according to a study published online this week in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Fuschia M. Sirois of Bishop’s University in Quebec, who led the research, gave a group of people with hypertension and cardiovascular disease and a group of healthy people a variety of questionnaires, including one designed to measure their proclivity toward putting things off. In the end, she found that the people with heart disease were more likely than the healthy people to admit to behaviors that indicated procrastination, agreeing more strongly with statements like, “I am continually saying I’ll do it tomorrow.”
Sirois’s study didn’t attempt to uncover a reason why procrastination and heart disease may be linked, but there are some obvious possibilities. People who are habitual procrastinators may be likely to put off dreary chores like exercising or eating healthily, and the avoidance of these can of course lead to chronic health issues, like heart disease. And, as anyone who’s ever procrastinated on anything knows, people who put undesirable tasks off still, eventually, have to actually do those tasks — and when they do, they’ll be under more stress than necessary, because they’ve allowed themselves less time to get the thing done. Stress, and its detrimental effect on the body’s inflammatory responses, can also contribute to heart disease.
Unfortunately, telling a procrastinator to stop procrastinating is likely as easy to tell an introvert to be more outgoing — it’s not impossible, but it’s also not exactly easy. A ten-year study suggested that the tendency toward procrastination is a pretty stable personality trait, much like introversion or extroversion; there’s also evidence that the trait is genetic — all of which makes this new finding seem like a wonderful thing to worry about later.