Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily postponing decisions or actions. For example, if someone postpones an assignment until right before its deadline, despite the fact that they intended to work on it earlier, that person is procrastinating.
This article contains a collection of interesting and useful statistics about procrastination, which will help you understand who is affected by procrastination, how they are affected by it, and why they are affected by it in the first place. As you will see, these statistics are all based on credible sources, and specifically on peer-reviewed research articles that are linked directly in the text.
Statistics about the prevalence of procrastination
- Studies suggest that procrastination chronically affects 15%–20% of adults, and that approximately 25% of adults consider procrastination to be a defining personality trait for them.
- Studies show that approximately 80%–95% of college students engage in procrastination to some degree, approximately 70% consider themselves to be procrastinators, and approximately 50% say that they procrastinate in a consistent and problematic manner.
- In a study on an adult sample, 74% of the people who were surveyed indicated that they go to bed later than they planned at least once a week, with no external reason for doing so.
In addition, a 2001 study on a mixed sample (mean age = 29.4, standard deviation 12.0, 51.9% students, 42.5% employed, 3.6% unemployed), found the following:
- Approximately half (50.7%) of the people who were surveyed reported frequently using the internet to procrastinate.
- Across all participants, people spent on average almost half (47%) of their time online procrastinating, amounting to an average of 1.59 hours of internet procrastination each day, though there was substantial variability in this across individuals, meaning that many people procrastinated to a much greater or lower degree than average.
- When it comes to procrastinating using the internet in specific domains, people procrastinated the most when they were home (57% of the time, amounting to 1.12 hours on average out of 1.96 hours spent on the internet), then at school (40% of the time, amounting to 0.26 hours out of 0.65), and finally at work (32% of the time, amounting to 0.24 hours out of 0.75).
Furthermore, given that digital devices and the internet now play a much more substantial role in most people’s lives (in all domains), and given that general procrastination rates appear to be increasing rather than decreasing, it’s likely that people now spend much more time per day procrastinating on the internet than they did in the past.
Finally, note that the prevalence of procrastination also varies based on the task involved. For example, a study on students in an introductory psychology course indicated that ~46% of them always or nearly always procrastinate on writing term papers, ~30% procrastinate on reading weekly assignments, ~28% procrastinate on studying for exams, ~23% procrastinate on attendance tasks, ~11% procrastinate on administrative tasks, and ~10% procrastinate on school activities in general.
Statistics about the dangers of procrastination
- In one survey, 94% of people indicated that procrastination has a negative effect on their happiness, and 18% indicated that this effect is extremely negative.
- When students were asked how they felt after procrastinating, over 80% of their responses were categorized as negative.
- In a study on students, many said that procrastination was always or nearly always a problem for them when it comes to various academic activities (e.g., ~24% said this about writing term papers and doing weekly readings, and ~21% said this about studying for exams). Furthermore, in this study, many students said that they wanted or definitely wanted to reduce their procrastination on writing term papers (~65%), studying for exams (~62%), and doing weekly readings (~55%).
- Students often report that procrastination occupies over a third of their daily activities, usually in the form of behaviors such as sleeping, watching TV, or playing video games.
- A meta-analysis found that procrastination is negatively correlated with various aspects of academic performance, including performance on assignments (correlation of -.21, across 13 studies), performance in final exams (-.17, across 11 studies), grade point average—GPA (-.16, across 19 studies), and overall academic performance (-.19, across 41 studies).
- An increase of a single point on a 5‐point scale measuring the tendency to procrastinate is associated with approximately a $15,000 drop in salary, according to a large-scale study.
- When splitting the population into two groups based on how much they engage in procrastination, procrastinators comprise 57% of the unemployed, according to a large-scale study.
Statistics about the causes of procrastination
- There is a strong positive correlation (.64) between procrastination and agreement with the statement “No matter how much I try, I still put things off”, which suggests that procrastination is often involuntary.
- One meta-analysis examined studies that compared procrastination with self-reported work intentions, and found that the two variables are largely independent (a correlation of -.03 with a 95% confidence interval of [-.13, .08], across 8 studies), which means that procrastinators often intend to work as hard as non-procrastinators, or even harder.
- A meta-analysis found that procrastination is positively correlated with a disparity between intended work habits and actual work habits, a phenomenon referred to as the intention-action gap, which means that procrastinators often work less than they intend to (a correlation of .29 across 6 studies). The meta-analysis notes that this gap generally grows as the amount of time between the intention and the action grows, meaning that it tends to be greater for actions that are far in the future. At the same time, this gap tends to narrow as the deadline for an intended action approaches, and it may even reverse, meaning that procrastinators often end up doing more work than they originally intended when finishing tasks right before the deadline.
- In one study, approximately 50% of people stated that their procrastination was due to some task characteristic, and two common task characteristics that lead to procrastination are task aversiveness (e.g. a task being perceived as boring or unpleasant), and timing of rewards and punishments (e.g. a task having rewards or punishments that are far in the future).
- In one study, 8% of people stated that low-confidence was a cause of procrastination.
- A meta-analysis found that there is a negative correlation (-.38, across 39 studies) between procrastination and self-efficacy, which is a person’s belief in their ability to perform the actions needed to achieve their goals. The meta-analysis also found a similar but weaker correlation (-.27, across 33 studies) between procrastination and self-esteem.
- A meta-analysis found a positive correlation between procrastination and depression (.28 across 56 studies).
- Studies suggest that tiredness is one of the top three reasons that students give for putting off work, with approximately 28% of students indicating “Didn’t have enough energy to begin the task” as a source of procrastination.
- A meta-analysis showed that different facets of perfectionism have different effects on procrastination. Specifically, perfectionistic concerns, which are characterized by excessive preoccupation with other people’s opinion, negative self-evaluations, and an inability to experience satisfaction even after a successful performance, are positively correlated with procrastination (a correlation of .23, across 43 studies). Conversely, procrastination strivings, which are characterized by the tendency to set excessively high personal standards and demand perfection from oneself, are negatively correlated with procrastination (a correlation of −.22, across 38 studies).
- People sometimes procrastinate due to an underlying fear of failure. For example, in two studies that used an open-ended questionnaire, 7%–16% of people gave fear of failure as a reason for procrastination, and a meta-analysis found a positive correlation of .18 between fear of failure and procrastination (across 57 studies).
- One study found that rebellion and resentment are common causes of procrastination among middle-school students, with 26% of them highly indicating that they resented people setting deadlines for them, but another study found that this was a relatively rare cause of procrastination among college students, with fewer than 5% of students indicating this.
- Sensation seeking is sometimes a cause for procrastination. For example, in one study, 6.4% of students responded positively to the notion that they “Looked forward to the excitement of doing this task at the last minute”. Furthermore, a meta-analysis found a positive correlation of .17 between procrastination and sensation seeking (across 11 studies).
Note: for a more comprehensive explanation of why people procrastinate, see the dedicated article on the topic.
Statistics about the genetics of procrastination
A longitudinal study on twins found the following:
- Procrastination is moderately heritable, with 46% of the variance in procrastination being attributed to genetic components (as opposed to environmental ones).
- There’s a strong positive correlation (.65) between procrastination and impulsivity (the tendency to take rash action without thinking or planning) at the phenotypic level, meaning that 42% of the phenotypic variation in procrastination is shared with impulsivity. Furthermore, there is a perfect positive correlation (1) between procrastination and impulsivity at the genetic level, meaning that 100% of the genetic variation in procrastination is shared with impulsivity. Taken together, this suggests that there are no unique genetic influences that affect only procrastination or impulsivity, and that the phenotypic correlation between them is primarily (73%) due to shared genetic influences.
- Of the 42% of shared phenotypic variation between procrastination and impulsivity, 74% is also shared with goal-management failure, which is the tendency to fail to set and pursue short and long-term goals. Furthermore, of the 100% of shared genetic variation between procrastination and impulsivity, over two-thirds (68%) is also shared with the genetic variation in goal-management failure, which suggests that the shared genetic influences on procrastination and impulsivity are also shared substantially with goal-management failure.
However, the exact statistics that were found here should be interpreted with caution, as there is substantial variability in findings on the genetics of procrastination between studies that use different samples and methods. For example, one study found that only 22% of the variance in procrastination is explained by genetic factors (rather than 46%), and another study found that the genetic correlation between procrastination and impulsivity was only around .3 (rather than 1.0).
Statistics about procrastinators
- There is a weak positive correlation between gender and procrastination (.08), with men being slightly more likely to procrastinate than women, according to a meta-analysis and various large-scale studies, and one such study notes that men comprise about 54% of procrastinators.
- Controlling for age, procrastinators are more likely to be single rather than married (correlation of .06 between procrastination and being single as opposed to being married, widowed, divorced, or separated), and procrastinators are also more likely to get divorced or separated rather than remain married (correlation of .07), according to a large-scale global study.
- It’s possible to divide procrastinators into five major subgroups: mild procrastinators (24.93% of people), average procrastinators (27.89% of people), severe procrastinators (21.69% of people), primarily depressed procrastinators (11.55% of people, who procrastinate primarily because of an underlying depression), and well-adjusted procrastinators (13.94% of people, who procrastinate regularly but are generally not negatively affected by it), according to one study on the topic.
- The personality trait that procrastination is most strongly associated with is conscientiousness (compared to the other personality traits within the “Big Five” model, and namely openness to experience, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism). Specifically, there is a strong negative correlation between procrastination and conscientiousness (-.62, based on a meta-analysis of 20 studies), which indicates that people who are low in conscientiousness are more prone to procrastination.
- There is a positive correlation between trait procrastination and task aversiveness (.40, based on a meta-analysis of 10 studies), which suggests that procrastinators are more prone than non-procrastinators to perceiving tasks as aversive (e.g. as unpleasant or boring), which may be one of the drivers behind their procrastination.
- People generally characterize procrastination as a negative behavior, and over 95% of procrastinators wish to reduce it.
Note: if you want to learn more about procrastinators in general, see the dedicated article on the topic.
Additional information about procrastination
If you want to learn more about procrastination, beyond the statistics that you saw here, take a look at one or more of the following: