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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 146-151

Relationship between academic procrastination and self-esteem among dental students in Bengaluru City

Department of Public Health Dentistry AECS Maaruthi College of Dental Sciences and Research Centre, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission18-Sep-2018
Date of Acceptance28-Mar-2019
Date of Web Publication20-Jun-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. K Mahesh Chandra
Department of Public Health Dentistry AECS Maaruthi College of Dental Sciences and Research Centre, Bengaluru, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaphd.jiaphd_182_18

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Background: Procrastination may be conceptualized as a behavioral self-handicap. In education and training, the term academic procrastination is commonly used to denote the delay in academic activities. A person who procrastinates starts feeling powerless and hopeless; his confidence suffers and future seems dark and can lead to low self-esteem. Aim: The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between academic procrastination and self-esteem among dental students in Bengaluru City, Karnataka, India. Material and Methods: The current cross-sectional study was conducted among dental students from three different dental institutions in Bengaluru. The sample consisted of 255 dental students. Data were collected through questionnaire using the Tuckman Academic Procrastination Scale and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The data collected were analyzed using SPSS software version 14.0. Independent Student's t-test, ANOVA, and Pearson's correlation test were performed. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: The results indicated that a significant weak positive correlation (r = 0.25, P < 0.001) existed between academic procrastination scores and self-esteem scores. There was a significant difference in the mean score of academic procrastination between males (40.81 ± 6.87) and females (42.80 ± 7.25) (P = 0.03). Conclusions: The current study found out that students with high self-esteem procrastinate less, whereas those who procrastinate more have comparatively lower self-esteem. Timely intervention can help students improve their skills such as time management and study habits.

Keywords: Dental students, procrastination, self-esteem

How to cite this article:
Babu P, Chandra K M, Vanishree M K, Amritha N. Relationship between academic procrastination and self-esteem among dental students in Bengaluru City. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2019;17:146-51

How to cite this URL:
Babu P, Chandra K M, Vanishree M K, Amritha N. Relationship between academic procrastination and self-esteem among dental students in Bengaluru City. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2019 [cited 2024 Mar 3];17:146-51. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/aphd/pages/default.aspx/text.asp?2019/17/2/146/260869

  Introduction Top

It happens time and again: a student sits down to do a time-intensive project only to get distracted by friends or social media. A business person is late to an appointment because he or she put off leaving until later. All of these are examples of procrastination. It is a phenomenon that can affect all areas of a person's life.[1] Procrastination comes from the Latin word “pro,” which means forward, and “crastinus,” which means of tomorrow. It is defined as a self-handicapping behavior that occurs when people delay completing a task they intend to complete, potentially leading to lost productivity, poor performance, and increased stress.[2] Academic procrastination is the most researched procrastination domain. As a student proceeds through school, the responsibility for controlling performances shift progressively from parents and teachers to the student, and it reaches a high point during the college years.[3] Nearly 46% of the university students in a 1984 study reported that they nearly always or always procrastinate on writing a term paper, 27% procrastinate on studying for examinations and 30% procrastinate on weekly reading assignments.[4] It is a behavior that is endemic in the academic domain, and it may be related to problems encountered by many college students.

Self-esteem is the general assessment that persons make of themselves based on the cluster of thoughts and emotions that they possess. In other words, it is the term used to describe peoples' beliefs and feelings about their overall self-worth. Persons with high self-esteem tend to display adaptive coping habits when faced with challenges, whereas people with low self-esteem are deemed to have a limited number of coping mechanisms and are more likely to encounter emotional challenges.[5]

In this modern society, time and punctuality are considered important standards. Procrastination considerably wastes significant time if there is something supposed to be performed.[6] Those who procrastinate have found to carry a heavy cost due to inability to abide by these values, thereby affecting all domains of life. Researchers point in the direction that procrastination raises students' anxiety and sinks their self-esteem.[7] The most convincing research in this regard was done by Burka and Yuens. According to them, low self-esteem is a central constituent of procrastination and a person who procrastinates starts feeling powerless and hopeless; his confidence suffers and future seems dark.[8]

There are various studies which have explored the association between procrastination and self-esteem among students.[5],[7],[9],[10] However, there is a scarcity of literature on the relationship between academic procrastination and self-esteem in dental students in India. Hence, the study was conducted with an aim to assess the relationship between academic procrastination and self-esteem among the dental students from various dental colleges of Bengaluru, India.

  Material and Methods Top

A cross-sectional study was conducted among 255 dental students in Bengaluru, India, from August to September 2017. Ethical approval was obtained from the Institutional Review Board (120B/2017–2018), and permissions for the study were sought from the head of the institutions before commencing the study.

Tuckman (1991) developed the Procrastination Scale that purports to measure task avoidance to academic activities. One of the Tuckman's major goals was to develop an easily adaptable self-report instrument, which identifies academic procrastinators. The Tuckman Procrastination Scale [11] is used as the foremost academic procrastination scale in procrastination research. It comprises 16 statements, four of which are reverse scored. The items are rated on a four-point Likert scale, ranging from that's me for sure (1) to that's not me for sure (4). The total score ranges from 16 to 64. The smaller score indicates a greater tendency to procrastinate.

Data were also collected to assess the participant's self-esteem using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.[12] It is a 10-item scale that measures global self-esteem by measuring both positive and negative feelings about the self. Of the ten items on the instrument, five are reverse scored. The items are rated on a four-point Likert scale, ranging from strongly disagree (0) to strongly agree (3), where a higher sum score on the scale indicates high levels of global self-esteem.

A pilot study was conducted among 20 dental students to estimate the sample size and to check for the feasibility of the study. The sample size was calculated using the following formula:

n = (Zα/2) 2× P × (1 − P) × D/E2

where Zα/2=1.96, P = 65% =0.65, E = 0.065, D = 1

According to the above-given formula, the final sample size was:

Considering nonresponse rate and sample loss due to attrition, the minimum sample size needed would be n = 255.

The sampling frame comprised various dental colleges from Bengaluru, affiliated to the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences.[13] Three dental colleges were randomly selected using the lottery method. From each college, undergraduates, interns, and postgraduate dental students who were present on the day of study and those who were willing to participate were included in the study. An attempt was made to achieve an equal sample size per group. Informed consent was obtained from the students by disclosing the purpose of the study. Data were collected in the respective workplaces. The students were instructed not to disclose their names in the questionnaire. Untraceable code names were assigned to the individuals throughout the study, and anonymity was maintained. The study proforma was distributed and collected back on the same day and checked for its completeness. The response rate was 100%.

The data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 14.0 (IBM Corp, Armonk, New York, United States). The data were analyzed using descriptive analysis, independent Student's t-test, ANOVA, and Pearson's correlation test. The level of statistical significance was set at P < 0.05

  Results Top

A total of 255 dental students participated in the present study, and the age of the participants was from 18 years and above with 48.6% in the age range of 22–25 years. Among them, 51.0% were female and 49.0% were male. Majority of the individuals (34.1%) were pursuing postgraduation [Table 1].
Table 1: Descriptive characteristics of the study sample

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The total mean score of academic procrastination according to gender was higher among females compared to males, that is, females show less academic procrastination than males, and this difference was statistically significant (P = 0.03) [Table 2], whereas the total mean score of self-esteem was also higher among females (19.68 ± 4.14) compared to males (18.98 ± 3.41), but this difference was not statistically significant [Table 3].
Table 2: Gender-wise comparison of mean academic procrastination scores

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Table 3: Gender-wise comparison of mean self-esteem scores

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The results showed a significant difference in mean academic procrastination scores and self-esteem scores among undergraduates, interns, and postgraduates. Postgraduates reported higher self-esteem (20.25 ± 4.02) and lower academic procrastination (44.28 ± 7.64) [Table 4].
Table 4: Comparison of mean academic procrastination scores and mean self-esteem scores for dental students across academic year groups

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Academic procrastination and self-esteem scores among dental students had shown a weak positive correlation (r = 0.25) and were found to be statistically significant (P < 0.001). Hence, academic procrastination scores increase with self-esteem scores, that is, when self-esteem increases academic procrastination decreases [Table 5].
Table 5: The relationship between academic procrastination scores and self-esteem scores

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Correlation of age with academic procrastination scores and self-esteem scores were 0.20 and 0.21, respectively, and were found to be statistically significant. As age increases, academic procrastination decreases (academic procrastination score increases) and self-esteem increases [Table 6].
Table 6: The relationship between age, academic procrastination scores, and self-esteem scores

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  Discussion Top

Procrastination is commonly believed to be detrimental to individual performance in many walks of life, and it is logical to assume that this applies to dental education as well. Procrastination consists of the intentional delay of an intended course of action, in spite of an awareness of possible negative outcomes. Previous reports on procrastination have found it to be widespread among college students.[14]

The mean academic procrastination scores for dental students in males and females when analyzed, it was found that the Tuckman procrastination scores were higher in females, that is, academic procrastination is less in females compared to males. The results obtained proved statistically significant and when compared with other studies conducted by Senecal et al.[15] and Ozer et al.,[16] similar results were reported. This could probably be explained by the fact that females show more responsible and organized attitude than males.

Contrary to the results of our study, wherein males had higher academic procrastination, other studies conducted by Browne [5] and Saleem and Rafique [7] reported similar levels of procrastination in male and female students. Ozer and Ferrari [17] found no significant difference between male and female students on academic procrastination. Rodarte-Luna and Sherry [18] demonstrated that female students procrastinate more frequently than males. The various results provide unclear answers as to which gender is more likely to engage in procrastination. More specific research is needed to clarify the relationship between gender and procrastination.

When gender-wise comparison of mean self-esteem scores was analyzed, our study proved that there was no statistically significant gender difference among the study individuals. Results of the current study reflect the previous studies by Marcic et al.[19] and Polce-Lynch et al.[20] This could be probably because females and males are getting the same importance in dental curriculum, there is no gender discrimination, and they have equal access to resources. It should also be noticed that the population of the study included only dental students who are getting the same type of education. Past researchers have given contradictory findings of gender differences in self-esteem. Gohil [21] had found a significant difference in self-esteem among males and females. Females had higher levels of self-esteem than males. The author has explained the reason that, men do appear to procrastinate more than women. Hence, procrastination can cause a deleterious effect on their self-esteem. Kling et al. reported that females may experience lower self-esteem due to the cultural emphasis on their physical appearance, which results in their discontent about their appearance. Another study conducted by Pleck showed that males may experience lower self-esteem because they are sometimes unable to meet cultural measures of masculinity.[22]

In this study, one of the objectives was to compare the mean differences of academic procrastination and self-esteem among undergraduates, interns, and postgraduates. The results highlighted statistically significant difference in academic procrastination between the groups. Postgraduate showed lower academic procrastination than undergraduates and interns. This could be because postgraduate students become more experienced and mature in both professional and personal life, and they are able to grow out of their procrastination habits. These findings were in accordance with the study conducted by Özer [23] who suggested that undergraduate students showed higher procrastination than postgraduate students.

The mean self-esteem scores for dental students, when analyzed in different academic year groups (undergraduates, interns, and postgraduates), it was found that self-esteem is higher in postgraduate students compared to undergraduate and interns. The reason for postgraduate showing higher self-esteem may be because as a person matures his/her ability to cope up with situation improves and postgraduates will be more experienced in handling various situations in dentistry.

The main aim of this study was to explore the association between academic procrastination and self-esteem in dental students. Statistically significant weak positive correlation was found between academic procrastination scores and self-esteem scores in our study, that is, when academic procrastination increases self-esteem decreases. In other words, if individuals have favorable or positive feelings regarding their overall self, it is less likely that they would delay the completion of assigned tasks. On the other hand, there is a high probability of persons engaging in procrastination if they view their complete selves in a negative or unfavorable manner. Higher self-esteem may translate into greater confidence in one's ability to successfully complete the tasks. The current results reflect the findings of the previous study conducted by Saleem and Rafique [7] in university students.

Further, there was a statistically significant weak positive association between age and academic procrastination scores. As age increases, academic procrastination score increases, that is, academic procrastination decreases. This finding is likely to be as a result of younger students not having a strong sense of self or the level of self-esteem required to have confidence in their ability to satisfactorily complete the given tasks. This result can also be attributed to conscientiousness that has increased with advancing age, a personality trait which is strongly negatively associated with procrastination. As most people get older, they can better evaluate the benefits of the present and future, leading to effective utilization of time. Steel [2] also inferred that age was negatively correlated with procrastination, meaning that as age increases, procrastination levels tend to decrease. A similar trend was also seen in a study conducted by Naveed and Ishtiaq [9] in university students.

The relationship between self-esteem scores and age, when analyzed among dental students, found a very weak positive correlation in our study. When age increases, self-esteem also increases. This result obtained proved statistically significant and are in line with the study conducted by Nematollahi et al.[24] who demonstrated a significant positive relationship between students' age and self-esteem. This could be explained by the fact that as age increases the level of maturity also increases which, in turn, can cause an increase in self-esteem.

Procrastination has been consistently reported to exert an adverse influence on the academic performance of students. The results from our study substantiate this point, as the academic procrastination showed an inverse relationship with self-esteem. The general notion is that procrastination behaviors leave students too little time to complete their tasks, thereby resulting in lower self-esteem, whereas few studies have shown procrastination to be beneficial. Sommer [25] affirmed that adept students maximized the effectiveness of their study time by a carefully orchestrated cycle of procrastination and cramming. Schraw et al.[26] reasoned that the procrastinators worked under pressure for an extended period of time during which all of their resources were focused on one goal and hence were more likely to achieve favorable results. From the meta-analysis of available evidence, Steel concluded that “procrastination is usually harmful, sometimes harmless, but never helpful.”[2] From this discussion, it is evident that there is a need for more research in this area and that the adaptive and maladaptive forms of procrastination should be differentiated before evaluating their effect on self-esteem.


The self-reported questionnaire contained questions regarding the academic procrastination and self-esteem of the students, which could have led to a social desirability bias. The use of a correlational design did not allow for causation to be examined, and the number of dental students who participated in the study was limited, due to data collection constraints and for more valid and reliable conclusion, the study needs to be replicated with a larger sample size. It would be better to include other variables such as anxiety, self-efficacy, and depression to know about their correlates of procrastination.


A number of implications have emerged from the results of the present study. Due to procrastination, students lose their precious time as well as the quality of work. It can lower their self-esteem, as they start feeling bad at the end of the day when they fail to do anything productive. Research results point in the direction of therapeutic intervention for students who procrastinate. Suggestions can be given for the enhancement of self-esteem. Improving self-esteem is a better way to cure procrastination in students. Self-appraisal and self-worth lead students to do their tasks scrupulously and make important decisions on time. Timely intervention can help students improve their skills such as time management and study habits. The students must be educated to recognize and break away from these cognitive barriers. Fostering self-regulation, time management skills, and achievement motivation through cognitive behavioral interventions may help prevent academic procrastination.

Psychological interventions designed for the enhancement of self-esteem, and time management need to be incorporated within the academic structure of colleges and universities. Student counseling and assessment centers should be setup in the universities for timely help of students who have low self-esteem or for those in the habit of procrastination. Further, a qualitative study which comprises of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions should be conducted to explore the reasons for academic procrastination among dental students.

Public health significance

Public health significance of this study lies in the fact that by measuring, classifying, and evaluating the prevalence of academic procrastination, the reasons that dental students in India procrastinate may be determined, and strategies could be developed to counter such negative behavior. Students could be educated in organized team efforts on efficient time management and how to improve their organizational skills in order to reduce their tendency to procrastinate. Additional studies are needed to assess the influence of personal and environmental factors on procrastination, which is known to be multifaceted in nature.

  Conclusions Top

We thus conclude that there is a significant association between academic procrastination and self-esteem among dental students. Students with high self-esteem procrastinate less, whereas those who procrastinate more have comparatively lower self-esteem. Future research can be carried out to examine academic procrastination and its relationship with variables such as motivation, optimism, and anxiety in dental students.


The authors would like to thank the principals and students of the dental colleges for their participation and we are grateful to them for contributing their valuable time and support to the research work.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6]

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