Can you die from studying?

crow and cross

Studying is not easy, especially if you are doing it for long periods of time regularly. But can studying actually kill you?

It is possible to die from studying too much. For instance, there has been a case where a student at Harvard Law School died from over studying. However, it is statistically extremely unlikely that this may ever happen to you or someone you know. In general, for that to happen, one would have to spend extensive periods studying to the point of exhaustion and without getting any proper sleep or nutrition.

To elaborate further, let’s look more into more detail on how studying might cause death and what can you do it to prevent it from happening to you.

How can studying cause death?

It is important to make it clear that studying in itself as an activity is not dangerous. It is probably as life-threatening as watching TV.

What can make studying fatal is engaging in it in an obsessive and unhealthy way. For example, studying for such a long period of time that you are not getting enough sleep. The same would probably happen when watching TV – if you do it for a long enough time without sleeping – your body would eventually give out. 

So studying it is not the studying in itself that directly causes death – but the exhaustion that results from excessively engaging in a particular activity. In particular, after doing some research I have identified the 5 main risks related to studying that may cause death:

  1. Lack of sleep
  2. Sitting for too long
  3. Stress
  4. Depression and mental health issues
  5. Lack of proper nutrition

Let’s dig into each of them and learn how they can be harmful and what you could do about them.

1. Lack of sleep

Let’s face it a lot of students sacrifice sleep, especially during exam periods. However, according to Harvard Medical School, sleep deprivation could be fatal. Additionally, lack of sleep could result in heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and many other conditions.

shadow of woman on bed

So if you sacrifice your sleep to study longer you will definitely put your health at risk. This is most probably one of the main reasons why the student from Harvard Law School that I mentioned earlier died. As much as possible, try to make sure you get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep!

2. Sitting for too long

Another risk factor related to studying is sitting. While this might sound funny at first, sitting could actually be fatal. According to CNN “sitting too long can kill you, even if you exercise”.

woman in gray t-shirt and blue denim jeans reading book

Although it is not clear how exactly sedentary behavior impacts our health directly, according to Keith Diaz (scientist at Columbia University), sitting is related to many health risks. Furthermore, there have been cases, where sitting for a long time created Pulmonary Embolisms, which stopped blood flow and in some cases even resulted in death.

So what does it mean for you? Should you stop sitting to avoid dying? Of course, not – it is almost impossible to avoid sitting during your studies. In fact, during lectures, you are required to sit.

According to Diaz the solution to the issue is quite simple – after 30 minutes of sitting, stand up and move or walk for 5 minutes. That should significantly reduce health risks related to sitting.

3. Stress

Studying can be quite stressful, especially, if you really care about your grades. Although, a little bit of stress is not necessarily bad, stressing out too much could have a significant tool on your health.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health “over time, continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.”

And of course, these issues could result in death as well. In fact, there has been a case where an 18-year-old girl from Pakistan passed away to do exam stress.

man wearing white top using MacBook

So what can you do to keep your stress at healthy levels? Well, first of all do not get too obsessed with grades or over-study. Of course, this is almost the same as me saying “just don’t stress about it” and is not very helpful.

So here are some more actionable suggestions from the National Institute of Mental Health that might help you out:

  1. Talk to a health professional
  2. Get regular exercise (30 minutes per day)
  3. Try a relaxing activity such as meditation or yoga
  4. Set goals and priorities, learn to say no to some things
  5. Keep in touch with other people for emotional support

4. Depression and mental health issues

We talked about stress, but another common problem that many students face is depression. Of course, stress can cause depression, but depression is such a large topic that it deserves a section of its own.

Although depression cannot kill you directly, according to the World Health Organization it can definitely make your life miserable and increase the risk of suicide. Which is quite relevant for university students as “suicide is the second-leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 24.”

woman in gray sweater seating on chair

There have been cases where due to the study pressure students have killed themselves. For example, due to an extremely demanding and competitive environment, 4 students committed suicide at an Elite South Korean university. And such occurrences are not limited to South Korea, there have been similar cases of that in United Kingdom and other countries.

Of course, there are many causes for depression and studying could be just one of them. However, it is important to not push oneself too much. If you start feeling that you might have some issues with your mental health or are getting depressed you should take action before the situation becomes too dire. Coping with depression is a large topic and I would recommend checking out an article by helpguide for more information on how to do it.

5. Lack of proper nutrition

Sometimes students concentrate on studies so much that they forget to eat or are not eating proper food. I have to admit that I as a student also have committed this sin as well. After all, how can you concentrate on your diet, when you have to so much todo?

woman with messy hair wearing black crew-neck t-shirt holding spoon with cereals on top

However, lack of proper nutrition can result in dire consequences. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention poor nutrition can lead to being overweight, obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, deficits in brain function. In fact, your nutrition can even affect how you feel and how you think.

Although lack of proper nutrition will probably not kill you, there have been some cases where due to improper diet students have died.

So, eat properly! Of course, it is easier said than done, but here are some guidelines from UK’s National Health Service that might help you out:

  1. eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (see 5 A Day)
  2. base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
  3. have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  4. eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
  5. choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
  6. drink plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)


Yes, you can die from studying. But if we are being honest studying cannot cause death directly. Rather its the unhealthy lifestyle (that results from studying to much) that causes death or other health risks.

Overstudying can often result in a lack of sleep, sitting too long, stress, depression, and lack of proper nutrition. All of which can be detrimental to students’ health.

Of course, this does not mean that you should stop studying. Instead you should take actions to make sure that you are studying in a healthy way and are not damaging your health.

Danielius Korsakas

Has a BSc in Economics and currently is pursuing a double master's degree in very fluffy but interesting subjects. Loves learning and building stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts