Introduction: Being present at work when sick is not just prevalent in employees. Since university is also a demanding context, there is a growing interest in this phenomenon in university students. Especially students with mental health issues show a higher degree of productivity loss. However, little research has examined the causes of these productivity losses—especially in university students. Therefore, we examined health-related (burnout) and non-health-related (time pressure) aspects that lead to productivity losses in the long run.
Methods: We decided to examine the effect from time pressure on health-related loss of productivity, mediated by exhaustion. This assumption is in line with the health impairment process proposed by the Study Demands-Resources (SD-R) framework. To examine this assumption properly, we conducted a longitudinal study with three occasions. We surveyed 392 students in three waves over 1 year and performed structural equation modeling (SEM) to confirm the assumptions longitudinally.
Results: In line with our assumptions, time pressure predicted burnout which, in turn, predicted health-related loss of productivity in the long run. Hence—as assumed by the SD-R framework—burnout serves as a mediator between study demands and negative outcomes such as loss of productivity.
Discussion: Our study is the first that uncovers health-related and non-health-related causes of health-related productivity loss in university students. Thus, we were able to confirm SD-R's health impairment process longitudinally. Since we know that time pressure serves as a major antecedent for burnout and health-related loss of productivity, we are well-advised to establish appropriate interventions to reduce students' time pressure.