Academic Performance and Lifestyle Behaviors in Australian School Children: A Cluster Analysis

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Poor academic performance has been linked with particular lifestyle behaviors, such as unhealthy diet, short sleep duration, high screen time, and low physical activity. However, little is known about how lifestyle behavior patterns (or combinations of behaviors) contribute to children’s academic performance. We aimed to compare academic performance across clusters of children with common lifestyle behavior patterns. We clustered participants (Australian children aged 9-11 years, n = 284) into four mutually exclusive groups of distinct lifestyle behavior patterns, using the following lifestyle behaviors as cluster inputs: light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity; sedentary behavior and sleep, derived from 24-hour accelerometry; self-reported screen time and diet. Differences in academic performance (measured by a nationally administered standardized test) were detected across the clusters, with scores being lowest in the Junk Food Screenies cluster (unhealthy diet/high screen time) and highest in the Sitters cluster (high nonscreen sedentary behavior/low physical activity). These findings suggest that reduction in screen time and an improved diet may contribute positively to academic performance. While children with high nonscreen sedentary time performed better academically in this study, they also accumulated low levels of physical activity. This warrants further investigation, given the known physical and mental benefits of physical activity.

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