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Sunday, September 24, 2023
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Work hard, play harder: How the Badger lifestyle affects students’ health, UW’s popularity

Students on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus have mastered the idea behind the infamous “work hard, play hard” mentality — achieving academic success despite partying, sleep deprivation, substance abuse and suffering. 

The recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night often seems to be left out of the picture. But sleep deprivation is a serious problem that isn’t given enough recognition for its mental and physical impacts. Behind stress, college students rank sleep deprivation as the second leading cause of poor academic performance. 

Reaching rapid eye movement around six to eight hours into your sleep cycle allows the brain to store information long-term so you can recall what you’ve learned later on, according to the American Psychological Association. The less sleep a student gets, the more likely they are to forget or misremember information, threatening their academic success. 

Furthermore, lower grade point averages have been linked to fewer hours of sleep per night, according to the Washington Post

The burnout of the “work hard, play hard” mentality has led to college-aged students regularly relying on caffeine to keep them awake throughout the day. However, this habit only worsens their health and feeds a budding addiction. Caffeine intake in college students can be associated with depressive symptoms and higher levels of anxiety.

Although the right intake of caffeine actually has some health benefits, severe dependence can lead to high blood pressure and higher cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease later in life. 

Poor academic performance may lead students down the path of substance abuse — like taking prescriptions they don’t need or aren’t theirs — to either have a good time or stay awake.  

But not all students are affected equally. Business majors and social sciences majors are associated with more substance abuse compared to liberal arts, humanities and STEM majors, according to a National Library of Medicine study. 

Furthermore, the sense of pressure for students to be involved in multiple activities and clubs as a gateways to internships and full-time jobs adds to this stress. When academics, social life, campus involvement and leadership responsibilities accumulate, there is minimal room left for mental and physical care to stay happy and healthy.  

Overworking your body and your mind can also lead to an increased desire to drink alcohol, according to a cross-sectional analysis done by the National Library of Medicine. For individuals with preexisting social anxiety, fatigue and fear of social situations may further this dependence. 

As this addiction grows, more students rely on alcohol or other substances to fall asleep. About 25% of students rely on alcohol, marijuana or other over-the-counter substances to aid sleeping, according to the National Library of Medicine

Although this intense way of life has its downsides, it has actually made UW-Madison stand out in a positive light.

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As of the 2022-23 academic school year, UW-Madison was ranked among the top 10 public universities in the country, according to the U.S. News and World Report. The university also ranks number one for the best undergraduate insurance program of study and number one for real estate

As UW-Madison climbs its way to the top, students are convinced this heavy drinking culture and high stress atmosphere breeds academic greatness. As it turns out, students who work hard do tend to play hard, stemming from the motivation to succeed in life. A study done by a biologist at Queen's University in Ontario demonstrated that 40% of the data linked accomplishment and leisure. 

The study data describes the desire many people feel to leave something behind when they die. This represents the idea that mortality drives success, while also pushing individuals to live life to the fullest. 

The motivation to have a balanced schedule, and make time for social events and education, is an impressive and unique aspect of UW-Madison’s campus. Our vibrant and dedicated student body makes the university stand out during college admissions processes. 

This “work hard, play hard” mentality has worked to attract thousands of prospective students. UW-Madison’s freshman class broke records in the fall of 2022, becoming the largest-ever class to attend the university. The number of applicants for the 2022-23 academic year was up by 11.9%, according to a university press release

Furthermore, the number of incoming out-of-state freshmen has begun to surpass in-state incoming freshmen, demonstrating the school’s increasing nationwide popularity

The ability to persevere year after year with the increasing academic strength and the same desire to be social cultivates a truly unmatched experience for college students. 

If used as motivation instead of an easy way to breed unhealthy habits, the “work hard, play hard” mentality can allow for us to succeed at what we want while leaving room for a social life. 

Charlotte Relac is a sophomore studying Journalism and Mass Communication. She is an Opinion Editor and a member of the Editorial Board. Do you agree that academic pressure can cultivate an unhealthy lifestyle? Send all comments to

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